Majority of United States schools are unsafe for LGBTI students

A school bus flies the rainbow flag in support of LGBT students

A new report from GLSEN (the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network) reveals that a majority of schools in the United States have unsafe environments for LGBTI students.

Their State Snapshots looks at 41 states and Puerto Rico, collecting and analyzing data about various forms of discrimination in schools.

The information comes from past reports GLSEN has conducted, such as the 2017 National School Climate Survey.

In this new gathering of data, GLSEN looked at every state plus Puerto Rico, except for Montana, Wyoming, North and South Dakota, Alaska, Hawaii, Delaware, Rhode Island, and Vermont.

They looked at things like harassment and assault on the basis of sexual orientation, gender, and gender identity, as well as certain restrictions.

The report also looks at available resources and offers recommendations.

How did most states fare?

A majority of LGBTI students in every state assessed reported hearing anti-LGBTI remarks made by other students. This includes slurs and negative comments about gender identity and transgender individuals.

A majority of LGBTI students in all states also reported being verbally harassed for their sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender. Only a handful of states had less than half of all LGBTI students reporting verbal harassment based on gender.

Puerto Rico was the only state where less than half of all LGBTI students (35%) reported hearing negative comments about trans people.

This is in line with other reports, such as HRC and the University of Connecticut’s 2018 LGBTQ Youth Report.

Restrictions and resources

LGBTI students also report facing numerous restrictions at their schools.

In Alabamba, for example, 37% osaid school officials prevented them from wearing clothing considered ‘inappropriate for their gender’.

Nearly half (49%) in Mississippi said school figures prevented them from showing any form of PDA (physical displays of affection).

These numbers are smaller in more liberally-perceived states.

In California, only 15% said they were prevented from wearing certain types of clothing. Meanwhile, 19% in New York said they couldn’t show PDA.

These disparities are also present in LGBTI resources.

In California and New York, more than half of all LGBTI students report having a supportive administration. They also report having six or more supportive educators and a GSA (Gay-Straight Alliance).

Around a quarter or less of LGBTI students in Mississippi and Alabama report having these support networks.

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LGBTI progress in US schools is slowing for the first time in years, report says

A school classroom

A new report from GLSEN (the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network) reveals schools in the United States are slowing on LGBTI progress and safety for the first time in years.

Today they released their 2017 National School Climate Survey, looking at experiences of LGBTI students, as well as what resources schools provide.

GLSEN spoke to 23,001 students between the ages of 13 and 21 from April to August 2017 for the survey. A majority (67.5%) were white and most of the respondents were in grades 9-11.

Stilted progress

In their report, GLSEN did not see ‘the same progress in reducing levels of victimization experienced by LGBTQ youth, or increased access to some key school supports’, as they found in previous years.

Over the last three surveys — in 2013, 2015, and 2017 — there was no decrease in anti-LGBTI remarks, harassment, or assault between 2015 and 2017. Still, the numbers are still overall lower than they were in 2013.

Some forms of discrimination have increased, however, especially for transgender students.

From 2013, there has been an increase in reported negative remarks about gender expressions and trans students. More students also reported victimization to teachers last year.

Experiences at school

6 in 10 LGBTI students feel unsafe at school due to their sexuality, and 75.4% reported avoiding school events because they feel unsafe and/or uncomfortable.

A large majority (87.3%) also said they’ve experienced harassment or assault based on their sexuality or gender identity. Almost 3 in 10 reported because physically harassed in the past year due to their sexuality. More than half of all LGBTO students (57.3%) also reported being sexually assaulted in the past year.

Some (18.2%) have also been prohibited from pursuing LGBTI-related topics for school assignments.

A majority of the respondents (53.3%) said their school had a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) or something similar. Students at these schools reported hearing and experiencing less discrimination.

Most schools, though, are failing at being inclusive in education, particularly history and sex ed.


There are tangible consequences for LGBTI students in unsafe environments.

Students who faced discrimination for their sexuality reported missing school more than their peers (63.3% to 23.1%) and they also had lower grade point averages. They also reported being more likely to receiving disciplinary actions (54.1% to 30.3%) and higher levels of depression.

These trends remained the same for students who reported experiencing discrimination for their gender identity.

42.2% of LGBTI students said they considered dropping out of school due to harassment.

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