NEW YORK, Feb. 11, 2009 - One year after the shooting death of 15-year-old Lawrence King in Oxnard, Calif., because of his sexual orientation and gender expression, a new GLSEN research brief reveals just how unsafe California schools are for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) students.
Inside California Schools: The Experiences of LGBT Students (download from Related Documents on the right), a report based on findings from 673 California students who participated in the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network's 2007 National School Climate Survey, shows that California LGBT students face extreme levels of harassment and assault, skip school at alarming rates because of feeling unsafe and perform poorer in school when they are more frequently harassed.
"Our thoughts continue to go out to all those affected by the tragic murder of 15-year-old Lawrence King," said GLSEN Executive Director Eliza Byard. "We have an obligation to make sure that what happened to Larry nearly a year ago today never happens again. Inside California Schools shows just how far we have to go before every California student can truly be safe in school."
King was shot and killed on Feb. 12, 2008, by 14-year-old Brandon McInerney in a first period class at E.O. Green Junior High in Oxnard. Classmates said King was shot because of his sexual orientation and gender expression. McInerney has been charged with a hate crime.
97% of LGBT students regularly (sometimes, often or frequently) heard the word gay used in a negative way in school, such as "that's so gay." Nine out of 10 LGBT students (90%) regularly heard homophobic remarks, such as "faggot" or "dyke," from other students in school.
84% of California LGBT students were verbally harassed, 40% were physically harassed and 19% were physically assaulted in the past year because of their sexual orientation.
About two-thirds (64%) of LGBT students were verbally harassed, 29% were physically harassed and 13% were physically assaulted because of their gender expression.
65% of LGBT students who were harassed or assaulted in school never reported it to school staff. Only 37% of students who did report incidents said that reporting resulted in effective intervention by school staff.
29% of LGBT students had skipped class at least once in the past month because they felt unsafe, and 26% had missed at least one entire day of school for safety reasons. Students who were more frequently verbally harassed because of their sexual orientation were more than twice as likely to miss days of school because they felt unsafe than students who were less frequently harassed (44% to 18%).
The grade point average of LGBT students who were more frequently physically harassed because of their sexual orientation was a half grade lower than of students who were less frequently harassed (2.2 vs. 2.8).
Even though California has a statewide law protecting students from bullying and harassment based on sexual orientation and gender identity/expression, only 26% of LGBT students reported that their school had this type of comprehensive anti-bullying policy.
About the National School Climate Survey
The National School Climate Survey is a biennial report examining the experiences of LGBT middle and high school students in U.S. schools. The report, which was first released in 1999 and is the only national survey of its kind, documents the anti-LGBT bias and behaviors that make schools unsafe for many of these youth. The full 2007 sample consisted of a 6,209 LGBT K-12 students, from all 50 states and the District of Columbia, between the ages of 13 and 21.
GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, is the leading national education organization focused on ensuring safe schools for all students. Established nationally in 1995, GLSEN envisions a world in which every child learns to respect and accept all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. GLSEN seeks to develop school climates where difference is valued for the positive contribution it makes to creating a more vibrant and diverse community. For information on GLSEN's research, educational resources, public policy advocacy, student organizing programs and educator training initiatives, visit www.glsen.org.