Schools urged to boost efforts to decrease LGBT bullying

Schools urged to boost efforts to decrease LGBT bullying

(N.Y.) Increasing professional development to decrease bullying of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students is needed more now than in recent years, despite efforts already made in schools to address the issue, according to advocates.

Authors of a report released by the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network (GLSEN) just before Election Day called for more professional development in this area–noting that while teachers had worked at decreasing bullying in the classroom overall, many still needed help in addressing LGBT youth specifically.

Now, amid protests across many major cities and a spike in hate crimes against minority groups reported Monday by the FBI, members of the organization have said their recommendations should be addressed in districts sooner than later.

“Professional development and support for educators is something we are always pushing for because we know it’s important for students, but in this climate right now, LGBTQ kids and the teachers supporting them might be feeling particularly unsafe,” Becca Mui, education manager at GLSEN, said in an interview. “Having professional development helping educators learn how to best intervene and show these kids that they are safe and protected is an important step for schools to take right now–and even holding those trainings shows the school community that it’s important to the administration.”

Victims of bullying can face a number of negative short- and long-term effects including lower grades, self-esteem, attendance and self-confidence, and over time, students can develop depression or even suicidal tendencies, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Lesbian, gay and bisexual youth are three to four times as likely as their heterosexual peers to attempt suicide and 40 percent of transgender youth attempt suicide in their lifetime, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Additionally, students in this group have higher rates of homelessness–the Williams Institute of the University of California Los Angeles found that 40 percent of homeless youth identify as LGBT.

Some states have adopted anti-bullying laws specifically protecting LGBT youth, often with measures addressing juvenile justice policies, homelessness, sexual education and conversion therapy in recent years.

In schools, however, these students are more likely than their peers to face bullying or harassment. The Education Network’s report found that, in general, biased remarks from students, as well as harassment based on actual or perceived sexual orientation, became less common between 2005 and 2015–but it was still one of the most common types of bullying in school according to students, second only to bullying based on appearance or body size.

Despite the continued prevalence of bullying based on sexual orientation, few teachers surveyed felt comfortable addressing such instances compared to other types of bias-based bullying, likely due to the fact that while 85 percent had received professional development focused on bullying, just 33 percent including training targeting LGB issues, and 24 percent on transgender issues.

Only half of teachers reported engaging in any LGBT-supportive practices at school, and 9 percent said they advocated for LGBT-inclusive policies.

The findings, which included 1,367 U.S. middle and high school students and 1,015 teachers across the country who opted into the survey, demonstrate the need for administrators to continue working with faculty, according to Mui.

She did note that while some teachers may not know the signs of bullying based on sexual orientation, gender expression or other LGBT issues, or may not feel they have a grasp on how best to intervene, others may not feel safe themselves in doing so.

Kari Hudnell, spokesperson for GLSEN, noted that in half of the states, you can still be fired for being LGBT or being perceived as such, which can be a concern for educators as well.

“That’s one of the reasons it’s important to have the professional development as well,” Mui said. “If it comes from the administration it shows teachers will be supported if they intervene.” 

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