Harassment of gay students declining: survey

Reuters | 09/05/12

A gay couple hold hands during their symbolic wedding ceremony in central Rome May 21, 2005.
Credit: Reuters/Max Rossi

(Reuters) – Harassment of homosexual students is declining at U.S. schools, but the vast majority still report name-calling or threats, according to a survey released on Wednesday.

The drop in anti-gay harassment follows the adoption of anti-discrimination measures at more schools, according to the 2011 National School Climate Survey by the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network.

“The 2011 survey marks a possible turning point in the school experiences” of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) young people in high schools and middle schools, said Joseph Kosciw, the group’s head of research.

But he said an “alarming number” of LGBT students still faced barriers limiting their ability to get an education.

Just under a third of LGBT students reported verbal harassment taking place frequently or often last year. That is down from almost 45 percent in 2007 and 40.6 percent in 2009, the year of the previous survey.

Physical harassment, like shoving or pushing, that took place frequently or often was reported by 10.8 percent of students, down almost 3 percentage points from 2009. High frequency of physical assault dropped slightly, to 4.6 percent.

But 81.9 percent of LGBT students had been verbally harassed or threatened at school in the past year because of their sexual orientation, the survey said.

Just over 38 percent of students said they had been physically harassed in the past year and 18.3 percent were physically assaulted.

Students said having a Gay-Straight Alliance in school led to less homophobic remarks and victimization. Schools with an LGBT-inclusive curriculum also were less likely to feel unsafe and hear offensive comments.

The nationwide survey involved 8,584 students between 13 and 20 years old.

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