What can be done, to combat the bullying and harassment of LGBTQ students in order to ensure their intellectual and emotional well-being and physical safety?
With June’s landmark Supreme Court ruling in favor of marriage equality, many people believe the fight for LGBTQ equality is won. While this ruling is certainly a big step for equality, LGBTQ individuals still face discrimination in many different arenas. LGBTQ youth, for instance, often face bullying, harassment and discrimination from their peers. LGBT bullying, harassment, and discrimination are not only harmful psychologically and emotionally- when they occur in a school environment, they can negatively affect the academic performance of the young person being victimized.
A 2005 study done by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) and Harris Interactive, entitled From Teasing to Torment, documented the prevalence and nature of bullying and harassment in schools, with a focus on the targeting of self-identified LGBTQ youth. This study found that, after appearance, sexual orientation or perceived sexual orientation is the most common reason students get bullied. In fact, one third of teens in the study reported being frequently harassed for this reason. The study also shows that this harassment often crosses the line from verbal to physical. LGBTQ students are over three times more likely than non-LGBTQ students to report that they feel unsafe at school (20% vs. 6%).
What, then, can be done, to combat the bullying and harassment of LGBTQ students in order to ensure their intellectual and emotional well-being and physical safety? From Teasing to Torment shows that anti-harassment policies coupled with teachers who are willing to intervene and enforce these policies important parts of the equation in curbing the harassment of LGBTQ young people. In fact, having a harassment policy in place that specifically mentions sexual orientation and gender expression is associated with students feeling safer and describing less harassment or negative remarks at their school.
If you are interested in learning more about bullying and harassment of LGBTQ students, as well as tips and advice for making schools for inclusive, visit GLSEN.org. Finally, if you or anyone you know is a young person or teacher facing or trying to curb LGBTQ discrimination at school, NRS is always here to listen and here to help at 1-800-RUNAWAY or 1800RUNAWAY.org.