Youth of all sexual orientations and gender expressions can face verbal and physical harassment throughout their school day. In a 2011 national survey of LGBTQ+ youth, 82% said they had been verbally harassed because of their sexual orientation, 38% were physically harassed, and 18% were physically assaulted. Nearly 64% of students reported feeling unsafe because of their sexual orientation.
Repeated instances of bullying can create an environment that is not conducive to learning or academic success. Research shows that LGBTQ+ students who experience harassment have higher levels of depression and anxiety, as well as increased absenteeism. Some choose to drop out of school entirely.
Fortunately, available research also suggests that school safety is a protective factor for LGBTQ+ youth. School administrators need to assess their school environments to ensure they are fostering a welcoming environment for LGBTQ+ students. All staff should be trained to support LGBTQ+ students, LGBTQ+ history could be incorporated into lesson plans, and safe spaces should be designated throughout the school. Students often report feeling safer when they feel they are protected by teachers, school administrators, and staff. Resources for creating safer school environments for LGBTQ+ youth can be found at:
Further, establishing social organizations such as Gender and Sexuality Alliances (https://gsanetwork.org/) and psycho-educational support groups that expand school-based supports for LGBT youth can have a dramatic impact upon student well-being and academic outcomes.
Out Youth is currently partnering with Communities In Schools of Central Texas to provide such support groups in 5 area schools this fall, with plans to expand into at least 9 schools by the fall of 2017. This aligns with the overall mission of Out Youth to promote the physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and social well- being of LGBTQ+ youth so that they can openly and safely explore and affirm their identities.