Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Research Shows Alarming Rates of LGBT Student Victimization in Arizona

PHOENIX (Observer Update) - Arizona schools are unsafe places for LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) youth, according to a new GLSEN research brief released as Arizona students prepare for the 13th annual National Day of Silence on Friday.

Inside Arizona Schools: The Experiences of LGBT Students, a report based on findings from 159 Arizona students who participated in the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network’s 2007 National School Climate Survey, shows that Arizona LGBT students face extreme levels of harassment and assault, skip school at alarming rates because of feeling unsafe and perform poorer in school when they are more frequently harassed.

“As Arizona students prepare for the National Day of Silence to bring attention to anti-LGBT bullying and harassment, we learn just how pervasive the problem is in Arizona schools,” GLSEN Executive Director Eliza Byard said. “Arizona has lagged behind other states in taking the simple and effective steps to begin addressing anti-LGBT bullying and harassment. Arizona and all of its schools need to commit to making sure that schools are safe for all students.”

More than eight out of 10 Arizona LGBT students experienced verbal harassment based on sexual orientation in the past year, 43% said they had been physically harassed and more than one-fifth said they had been physically assaulted.

“While this report points out the problems and threats faced by LGBT students in Arizona, it also serves to strengthen the commitment of Equality Arizona and GLSEN to ensure every student has a safe place to learn and thrive,” said Barbara McCullough-Jones, Executive Director of Equality Arizona. “This report illuminates the steps we must take now for the safety of all students, and reinvigorates our drive to get anti-bullying legislation passed here in Arizona.”

GLSEN’s work in Arizona is supported by our GLSEN Phoenix and GLSEN Tucson chapters.

The Day of Silence is an annual event across the country, during which students take some form of a constitutionally protected vow of silence. Students from 150 Arizona middle and high schools registered as participants in 2008 out of more than 7,500 across the country.

Major Findings -

· 98% of Arizona LGBT students regularly (sometimes, often or frequently) heard the word gay used in a negative way in school, such as “that’s so gay.” 74% regularly heard homophobic remarks, such as “faggot” or “dyke,” from other students in school.

· 82% of LGBT students were verbally harassed, 43% were physically harassed and 22% were physically assaulted in the past year because of their sexual orientation.

· 68% of LGBT students were verbally harassed, 32% were physically harassed and 15% were physically assaulted because of their gender expression.

· 64% of LGBT students who were harassed or assaulted in school never reported it to school staff. Only 40% of students who did report incidents said that reporting resulted in effective intervention by school staff.

· 30% of LGBT students had skipped class at least once in the past month because they felt unsafe, and 31% had missed at least one entire day of school for this reason. Students who were more frequently verbally harassed because of their sexual orientation were almost twice as likely to miss days of school because they felt unsafe than students who were less frequently harassed (41% to 23%, respectively).

· Arizona is one of 43 states that does not explicitly protect students from bullying and harassment on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity/expression. Only 18% of LGBT students reported that their school had this type of comprehensive anti-bullying policy.

About the National School Climate Survey - The National School Climate Survey is a biennial report examining the experiences of LGBT middle and high school students in U.S. schools. The report, which was first released in 1999 and is the only national survey of its kind, documents the anti-LGBT bias and behaviors that make schools unsafe for many of these youth. The full 2007 sample consisted of a 6,209 LGBT secondary school students, from all 50 states and the District of Columbia, between the ages of 13 and 21.

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