At least nine in 10 LGBT students in Wisconsin say they regularly hear “gay” used in a negative way and almost as many hear other homophobic remarks at school on a regular basis.
These are two findings in the biennial National School Climate Survey released by the Gay, Straight Education Network this week.
The latest edition of GLSEN’s survey, which began in 1999 and remains one of the few studies to examine the middle and high school experiences of LGBT youth nationally, includes four major findings:
• Schools nationwide are hostile environments for a distressing number of LGBT students.
• A hostile school climate affects students’ academic success and mental health.
• Students with LGBT-related resources and supports report better school experiences and academic success.
• School climate for LGBT students has improved somewhat over the years, but remains quite hostile for many.
“The large number of students who reported hearing anti-LGBT language and who continue to experience verbal and physical harassment in Wisconsin’s schools is unacceptable,” said Dr. Eliza Byard, GLSEN’s executive director. “GLSEN calls on everyone in Wisconsin to join us in ensuring students and educators are given the resources and supports to create safe and affirming school environments. All members of the school community need to feel empowered to intervene when others are undermining these efforts.”
Specifically in Wisconsin, the survey found:
• The majority of LGBT students experienced verbal harassment: eight in 10 based on their sexual orientation and nearly six in 10 based on the way they expressed their gender.
• Many also experienced physical harassment and physical assault. Nearly four in 10 students were physically harassed based on their sexual orientation, and more than one in 10 were physically assaulted based on the way they expressed their gender.
• Only 19 percent said they were taught positive representations of LGBT people, history and events, and less than half could access information about LGBT communities on school Internet.
“Our research tells us that policymakers and education leaders in Wisconsin must do more to create safer and more affirming schools for LGBT students,” said Dr. Joseph G. Kosciw, GLSEN’s chief research and strategy officer. “Training and empowering educators to create supportive environments, supporting Gay-Straight Alliances and increasing access to accurate and positive information about LGBT people, history and events and inclusive policies all can improve school climate for all students in Wisconsin.”