2004 State of the States Report is First Objective Analysis of Statewide Safe Schools Policies; Small Group of States Lay Groundwork to Ensure Safety for All Students
The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, or GLSEN, released its first State of the States report in 2004. The report summarizes state laws that affect school environments and school safety for all students, particularly lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) students. The report represents the first systematic measurement and comprehensive analysis of statewide policy to ensure the safety of all students, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.
42 states received failing grades, or grades of “F”, in the report. New Jersey was ranked first with a score of 95 and one of only two “A”s on the list. Mississippi was at the bottom of the list, and the only state with less than zero points, with
a score of –3. A complete breakdown of all grades, including a ranking of states, is attached and also available by visiting www.glsen.org.
All 50 states and the District of Columbia were given letter grades based on points granted in six categories, including existence of statewide safe schools laws, statewide non-discrimination laws, support for education on sexual health and sexuality, local safe schools policies, general education issues (e.g. student/teacher ratios, graduation rates) and existence of laws that stigmatize LGBT people.
Key conclusions from the 2004 State of the States report include:
- The vast majority of students do not have legal protections against anti-LGBT bullying and harassment. Only 8 states and the District of Columbia currently have statewide legal protections for students based on sexual orientation. Only California, Minnesota and New Jersey include protections based on gender identity or expression. More than 75% of the approximately 47.7 million K-12 students in the U.S. go to schools that do not include sexual orientation and gender identity/expression as statewide protected classes alongside federally mandated protections based on religion, race, and national origin.
- GLSEN’s 2003 National School Climate Survey finds a relationship between student safety, school attendance and safe schools laws. Among the several key findings is that LGBT students who did not have (or did not know of) a policy protecting them from violence and harassment were 40% more likely to report skipping school out of fear for their personal safety.
- 7 states had their scores reduced for their respective laws that stigmatize LGBT people by specifically prohibiting any positive portrayal of LGBT issues or people in schools. Alabama, Arizona, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas and Utah have these laws.
A growing number of states and school districts are making initial efforts to curtail harassment and discrimination in schools through legislative and policy change, but laws and policies have not been passed in numbers necessary to match the pervasive levels of harassment and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity/expression in America’s schools. 4 out of 5 LGBT students report being verbally harassed because of their sexual orientation – while 83% of LGBT students note that faculty and staff never or only rarely intervene when they are present and homophobic remarks are made (Source: GLSEN 2003 National School Climate Survey, www.glsen.org).
Key findings, the complete report and additional information about methodology and demographics may be obtained by calling GLSEN’s Communications Department at 212-727-0135 or by visiting www.glsen.org.
STATE OF THE STATES
(In ranked order according to score. States with matching scores have been given matching ranks)
1 New Jersey
3 Washington, DC
9 Rhode Island
13 New York
14 New Hampshire
17 New Mexico
26 North Dakota
26 West Virginia
32 North Carolina
40 South Dakota
41 South Carolina
GLSEN, or the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, now in its 10th year, is the leading national education organization focused on ensuring safe schools for ALL students. GLSEN envisions a world in which every child learns to respect and accept all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. For more information on GLSEN’s educational resources, public policy agenda, student organizing programs or development initiatives, visit www.glsen.org.