Although attitudes are improving towards the LGBTQ community in schools, there is still much needed room for improvement. In a report released on October 22nd by Gay, Lesbian, & Straight Education Network (GLSEN), statistics show 55% of LGBTQ students still feel unsafe at school because of their sexuality while 38% feel unsafe because of gender expression.
The harassment these students face is not just verbal. 74% of responders to the survey mentioned verbal harassment for their sexual orientation and 55% for their gender identity. Although the majority of harassment appears to be verbal, what’s also frightening is the amount of physical harassment that LGBTQ students still face. According to the survey, 36% of students were pushed or shoved, 16.5% were kicked or injured with a weapon, and 49% faced cyber bullying for their LGBTQ status. Although some students report these issues to school staff, 57% of students don’t. Even when incidents were reported to school staff, 62% of students said staff members took no action.
What proves to be working in integrating the LGBTQ community in schools are organizations like Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs), and implementing anti-bullying policies. With positive support from teachers and the general school environment, more LGBTQ related content needs to be included in school curriculums.
The problems with educational systems still prove to be true when we realize the ignorance of some students on the issue unless they’ve personally dealt with it or know someone who has. As a result of harassment, students have missed school to feel safer, and when they do attend they don’t perform as well. Mental health problems are also noted as a negative consequence to this harassment, including higher levels of depression.
Although the overall attitudes toward LGBTQ students in schools have improved over the past few years, there is still an evident problem with the ways LGBTQ is perceived and spoken about in schools. Seldom are LGBTQ issues and stories shared within the education system as part of the curriculum, further segregating LGBTQ people in schools. Although various clubs for support have been created since then, talking more about issues that affect LGBTQ students in the school curriculum is one step towards positive change. This single step could reduce the levels of abuse, bullying and ignorance towards LGBTQ youth.
As a result of this lack of representation of LGBTQ people in schools, GLSEN and StoryCorps collaborated to create Unheard Voices, a curriculum project for educators to use to incorporate LGBTQ history and issues into education programs. This step towards creating an LGBTQ inclusive curriculum helps to raise understanding and respect for all people in schools.
By including LGBTQ materials in schools, students will be able to recognize that everyone is equal and should be treated with respect. The gap that still remains with LGBTQ equality is slowly closing, but with extra steps one day we will able to ensure the safety and happiness of LGBTQ people in schools. Including LGBTQ content in our education system are important steps that need to be taken.