LGBTQ Progress in Schools Has Stalled, says GLSEN

The Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network’s (GLSEN) 2017 National School Climate Survey found that progress toward more LGBTQ-inclusive schools has stalled for the first time in years, revealing that schools across the U.S. can be unsafe places for LGBTQ students.

According to NewNowNext, about 23,000 students were polled, about 40 percent of whom identified as LGBTQ. These LGBTQ participants were asked about experiences at school regarding harassment and discrimination and how they affected their schooling.

The majority of LGBTQ students – 60 percent – reported experiencing anti-LGBTQ discrimination at school. While this is an improvement since GLSEN’s 2013 National School Climate Survey, this growth seems to have leveled off, remaining the same since 2015.

An even larger majority of 70 percent said they experienced verbal harassment due to their sexual orientation while at school.

GLSEN found an upward trend of negative remarks made about transgender people, with a steady increase from 2013 to 2017. A similar trend was evident in school staff making negative comments about gender expression.

LGBTQ students in some states also reported facing restrictions at school regarding their sexual orientation or gender identity, according to Gay Star News. In Alabama, 37 percent were prevented from wearing clothing that may be gender affirming but were considered by staff to be “inappropriate for their gender.”

“This report should serve an alarm bell for advocates and a call to action for anyone who cares about students’ wellbeing,” the executive director of GLSEN, Eliza Byard, said in a statement.

Despite these disheartening numbers, there is some hope. The survey found a higher number of Gay Straight Alliances in schools nationwide than in years past. According to GLSEN, groups like GSAs are vital for LGBTQ youth.

“Fortunately, the evidence continues to show that key interventions are working to improve students’ lives,” said Byard. “We must continue to push to see them implemented in more schools, and support students who are organizing to improve their own communities.”