Challenges LGBT students experience
Harassment of LGBT students, 1996-2001.
Incidence data. Proactive activities
When discrimination against a minority group is condoned by a religion, government or
society, then serious forms of hatred are released. We have seen this in recent decades in its most
extreme form of genocide, rape and "ethnic cleansing" in Bosnia, in Rwanda and other countries. We also see hatred in our own public schools, directed against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT). Some school administrations ignore the problem; they are, in effect,
declaring open season on sexual minorities.
Incidence of anti-gay harassment:
The Safe Schools Anti-Violence Project issued their third annual report in late 1996. It included the results of a survey of over 8,400 students in the state of Washington:
|95% of the students described themselves as heterosexual; 5% as homosexual or bisexual, and 4% as uncertain.|
|Among the gay/lesbian/bisexual students: |
||34% had been harassed because of their sexual orientation.
||They were 3 times as likely to have been injured in a fight requiring medical attention
than their heterosexual contemporaries.
||They were twice as likely to have seriously considered suicide.
||They were 75% more likely to report feeling unsafe at school.
|6% of heterosexual youth reported being the victim of homophobic harassment.|
It is somewhat ironic that among students harassed because of
their perceived sexual orientation, about 75% were actually heterosexual. Thus, heterosexuals are
the main victims of homophobic harassment.
A 1999 survey of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual (LGBT) friendly youth
organizations by the Gay Lesbian & Straight Educational Network (GLSEN)
Lawsuits appear to be most successful if the student and parent carefully
document every incident of harassment and every meeting with school officials.
It is sad that some school boards will be motivated to protect their students more out
of fear than a sense of decency and fairness. But at least school districts will
eventually be forced to protect all of their students. They will find that an early
enforcement of anti-discrimination policies will nip harassment of gays and lesbians in
the bud when it is at the name-calling stage, before the situation degenerates into
violence. Court cases present school districts with only two options: to protect all of their students
against harassment, or to face bankruptcy.
Some school districts are taking a pro-active stance over homophobic and other forms of
harassment. Others at least are monitoring the magnitude of the problem. 2,3,4,5 In
early 1995, the Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Community Services Center of Colorado had
supplied a poster to the schools. It urged students with concerns about their sexuality to
phone the center. That poster was criticized by a fundamentalist Christian organization, Focus
on the Family, from nearby Colorado Springs. They felt that the poster promoted the
homosexual "lifestyle." They were also disturbed that the poster seemed to
recommend that students contact an outside agency instead of seeking support from their
parents. (Since a substantial percentage of youth who reveal their gay or lesbian
orientation to their parents get thrown out of the house, the poster's recommendations
may be quite reasonable).
The Denver school system organized a program in early 1996 which included a new poster
which urges students to talk to school counselors about harassment based on race, gender,
and sexual orientation. Counselors were given special training. Principals and governing
committees implemented the program at each school. Lawrence Burtoft, a policy analyst from
Focus on the Family was still unhappy: "To include homosexuality along with
such characteristics as race, ethnicity and gender is to accept an understanding of homosexuality which is not grounded in fact."
The following information sources were used during them mid to late 1990s to create the above essay. Due to attrition, few are still online today.
Arkansas family wins historic victory involving anti-gay harassment at high
school," at: http://www.youth.org/
Brian Weber, School Program Fights Biases - Posters to be Put up Stressing
Impropriety of Slurs, Harassment," Rocky Mountain News, Denver, CO, 1995-NOV-26.
Copyright © 1999, 2001, & 2010 by Ontario Consultants on
Last update: 2010-FEB-16
Author: B.A. Robinson