GLSEN’s Biennial National School Climate Survey Shows Students Still Lack School-Based Supports, for many LGBTQ Secondary Students, Despite Positive Effect on School Climate for LGBTQ Students
MASSACHUSETTS–GLSEN today released state-level data from its benchmark National School Climate Survey, which shows that U.S. secondary schools are slowly improving but remain hostile environments for many lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) students.
The biennial survey, which began in 1999, found that harassment and discrimination negatively affect LGBTQ students’ educational outcomes and mental health. The research also confirmed that lower levels of harassment and better educational outcomes are related to the presence of school-based supports: LGBTQ-inclusive anti-bullying policies, LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum, supportive educators and Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs).
For Massachusetts specifically, the report found:
- The vast majority of LGBTQ students in Massachusetts regularly heard anti-LGBTQ remarks. Many also regularly heard school staff make homophobic remarks (10 percent) and negative remarks about someone’s gender expression (29 percent).
- Most LGBTQ students in Massachusetts had been victimized at school.Of those, the majority (61 percent) never reported the incident to school staff. Only 39 percent of those students who reported incidents said it resulted in effective staff intervention.
- Many LGBTQ students in Massachusetts reported discriminatory policies or practices at their school.Nearly half (42 percent) experienced at least one form of discrimination at school during the past year. In Massachusetts, three in five transgender students (61 percent) were unable to use the school restroom that aligned with their gender identity.
- Many LGBTQ students in Massachusetts did not have access to in-school resources and supports.Less than a quarter (23 percent) attended a school with a comprehensive anti-bullying/harassment policy; only two in five (41 percent) had access to an LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum. However, 85 percent could identify six or more supportive school staff, and more than eight in 10 (83 percent) had access to a GSA or similar student club.
“This research makes clear that many LGBTQ students in Massachusetts are still lacking safe and inclusive schools,” said Dr. Joseph Kosciw, GLSEN’s Chief Research and Strategy Officer. “Leaders in Massachusetts must work to change this by supporting GSAs, creating and implementing policies that specifically protect LGBTQ students, providing professional development that helps educators support LGBTQ students and increasing access to curriculum that positively depicts LGBTQ people, history and events.”
State snapshots for 30 states can be found at www.glsen.org/statesnapshots. To access infographics, an executive summary and the complete GLSEN National School Climate Survey report, visit www.glsen.org/nscs.
The Mass. Snapshot Report
School-based supports such as comprehensive anti-bullying/harassment policies, school personnel who are supportive of LGBTQ students, Gay-Straight Alliances, and LGBT-inclusive curricular resources can positively affect school climate for LGBTQ students. Findings from the 2015 National School Climate Survey demonstrate that students attending schools with these resources and supports report more positive school experiences, including lower victimization and absenteeism and higher academic achievement.
Given the high percentages of LGBTQ students in Massachusetts who experience harassment at school and the limited access to key resources and supports that can have a positive effect on their school experiences, it is critical that Massachusetts school leaders, education policymakers, and other individuals who are obligated to provide safe learning environments for all students take the following steps:
- Implement comprehensive school anti-bullying/harassment policies;
- Support Gay-Straight Alliances;
- Provide professional development for school staff on LGBTQ student issues; and
- Increase student access to LGBT-inclusive curricular resources.
These actions can move us toward a future in which all students in Massachusetts will have the opportunity to learn and succeed in school, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.
GLSEN champions safe and affirming schools for all students. We envision a world in which every child learns to respect and accept all people, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. Each year, GLSEN programs and resources reach tens of thousands of K-12 schools across the United States, and our network of chapters brings GLSEN’s expertise to their local communities. GLSEN’s progress and impact have won support for our work at all levels of education in the United States and sparked an international movement to ensure equality for LGBTQ students and respect for all in schools. For more information on GLSEN’s policy advocacy, student leadership initiatives, public education, research and educator training programs, please visit glsen.org.