Monday, March 2, 2009

Study: LGBT of Color Face Greater Discrimination in Schools

NEW YORK CITY, New York (Observer Update) - LGBT students of color face greater victimization at school, according to a new study, reported The research paper: Shared Differences: The Experiences of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Students of Color in Our Nation’s Schools, was released by GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network.

The report documents the experiences of over 2,000 LGBT middle and high school students of color who were African American or Black, Latino, Asian or Pacific Islander, Native American, and multiracial. The researchers used data collected in 2007 as part of GLSEN’s biennial survey of LGBT students 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.”

The report also provides descriptions of the experiences of LGBT students of color in their own words. “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 report 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 and about two-thirds 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/Black, Latino, Asian/Pacific Islander, and multiracial students also reported verbal harassment in school based on their race or ethnicity. Native American students - 43 percent - 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 report also found that performance at school also suffered when students experienced high levels of victimization. Students’ overall GPA dropped when they reported high severities of harassment based on sexual orientation and/or race/ethnicity. Students experiencing high severities of harassment also reported missing school more often.

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