Thousands of Michigan Students to Participate in Day of Silence on April 17
NEW YORK, April 9, 2009 – Michigan schools are unsafe places for LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) youth, according to a new GLSEN research brief released as Michigan students prepare for the 13th annual National Day of Silence on April 17.
Inside Michigan Schools: The Experiences of LGBT Students, a report based on findings from 217 Michigan students who participated in the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network’s 2007 National School Climate Survey, shows that Michigan 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.
Nearly nine out of 10 Michigan LGBT students experienced verbal harassment in the past year because of their sexual orientation, almost a half said they had been physically harassed and a fifth said they had been physically assaulted.
“As Michigan students prepare for the National Day of Silence to bring attention to anti-LGBT bullying and harassment, we learn just how pervasive the problem is in Michigan schools,” GLSEN Executive Director Eliza Byard said. “Despite several opportunities to pass a comprehensive anti-bullying law, Michigan has lagged behind other states in taking the simple and effective steps to begin addressing anti-LGBT bullying and harassment. Michigan and all its schools need to commit to making sure that schools are safe for all students.”
A comprehensive anti-bullying law that included a list of categories often targeted for bullying – such as race, religion, sexual orientation and gender identity/expression – died last year in the Senate Education Committee, despite having passed the House. A similar bill has been introduced in the Senate this year.
Enumerating categories is particularly important in protecting LGBT students from bullying. The 2007 National School Climate Survey found that having a general policy is about as effective for protecting LGBT students as having no policy at all.
"GLSEN has done a great service for all who care about the safety of our kids in school. While no student should be bullied, it is clear from their research that LGBT students are desperately in need of better school policies and practices for their basic safety needs,” Michigan Equality Co-Director Julie Nemecek said. “Michigan Equality encourages the representatives and senators of Michigan to read the research brief and act accordingly to bring clear and unambiguous protection to these very vulnerable children. No child should have to overcome constant harassment and bullying to get an education."
That sentiment is the spirit behind the Day of Silence, an annual student-led event across the country during which students take some form of a constitutionally protected vow of silence. Students from more than 329 Michigan middle and high schools registered as participants in 2008 out of more than 7,500 across the country.
The full Michigan research brief can be found at
97% of Michigan LGBT students regularly (sometimes, often or frequently) heard the word gay used in a negative way in school, such as “that’s so gay.” 97% LGBT students regularly heard homophobic remarks, such as “faggot” or “dyke,” from other students in school.
87% of LGBT students were verbally harassed, 45% were physically harassed and 21% were physically assaulted in the past year because of their sexual orientation.
More than two-thirds (68%) of LGBT students were verbally harassed, 31% were physically harassed and 13% were physically assaulted because of their gender expression.
66% of LGBT students who were harassed or assaulted in school never reported it to school staff. Only 29% of students who did report incidents said that reporting resulted in effective intervention by school staff.
34% of LGBT students had skipped class at least once in the past month because they felt unsafe, and 32% had missed at least one entire day of school for this reason. 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 (45% to 22%).
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 (2.3 vs. 2.9).
Michigan is one of 43 states that does not explicitly protect students from bullying and harassment on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity/expression. Only 18% 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 secondary school 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.