Friday, January 23, 2009

LGBT’S of Color at Highest Risk in Schools

NEW YORK CITY (Observer Update) - A study of LGBT students in the nation’s schools has found that students of color are the most vulnerable, reported The study - Shared Differences: The Experiences of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Students of Color in Our Nation’s Schools - was prepared by GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network.

It documents the experiences of over 2,000 LGBT middle and high school students of color who were African American, Latino, Asian, Native American, and multiracial. The study found that across all groups, sexual orientation and gender expression were the most common reasons LGBT students of color reported feeling unsafe in school.

More than four out of five students within each racial/ethnic group, reported verbal harassment in school because of sexual orientation; about two-thirds reported harassment because of gender expression. At least a third of each group reported physical violence in school because of sexual orientation. More than half of African American, Latino, Asian and multiracial students also reported verbal harassment in school based on their race or ethnicity. Native American students were less likely than other students to report experiencing racially motivated verbal harassment.

About a quarter of African American/Black and Asian/Pacific Islander students had missed class or days of school in the past month because they felt unsafe. Latino, Native American, and multiracial students were even more likely to be absent for for safety reasons – about a third or more skipped class at least once or missed at least one day of school in the past month for safety reasons.

Native American students experienced particularly high levels of victimization because of their religion, with more than half reporting the highest levels of verbal harassment, and a quarter experiencing physical violence.

The study also found that less than half of students of color who had been harassed or assaulted in school in the past year said that they ever reported the incident to school staff. Furthermore, for those students who did report incidents to school staff, less than half believed that staff’s resulting response was effective.

In addition, Native American and multiracial students were more likely than other students of color in the survey to report incidents to a family member. Performance at school also suffered when students experienced high levels of victimization. Students’ overall GPA dropped when they reported high levels of harassment based on sexual orientation and/or race/ethnicity.

The report also looks at differing experiences based on the racial/ethnic make-up of students’ schools. For all groups, LGBT students of color who were minorities in their school were much more likely to feel unsafe and experience harassment because of their race or ethnicity than those who were in the racial/ethnic majority. “You could very well on any day hear someone yelling across the hall, ‘fag,’ etc,” said a 10th grade Latino male student in the report.

“I’ve heard it before. … It’s hurtful because it’s just not something that you say. And it’s just generally hurtful. And I know that I’ll just be walking in a hallway, and someone will just say under their breath with a group of friends, ‘fag’ … and hearing things like that in my school – it kind of brings me down almost. It kind of negates any hope that I have for our school to be a better place.”

The study used data collected in 2007 as part of GLSEN’s biennial survey of LGBT students, the National School Climate Survey, along with results from in-depth individual and group interviews. “While research on the experiences of LGBT students has increased in recent years, few studies have examined the specific victimization of students who identify as people of color and LGBT,” said GLSEN Executive Director Dr. Eliza Byard. “Our schools are diverse environments, and it is important to understand how our students experiences differ based on personal characteristics such as race and ethnicity. This report provides alarming evidence that we must act now to ensure sure that America’s LGBT students of color are safe in school.”

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