Wednesday, January 18, 2012

GLSEN Study Reveals LGBT Issues in Elementary Schools

Earlier today the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) released a study it had done on LGBT issues in American elementary schools.  GLSEN interviewed 1,065 Elementary school students in grades 3-6 and 1,099 Elementary school teachers of all grades (K-6) asking them about their experiences with LGBT issues in their schools for the purpose of getting a better feel for how these issues are approached in schools and what can be done to promote tolerance and decrease bullying.

I won't spend time going over the entire study, you can read it for yourself in the link above, but there were a few things that jumped out at me.

  • 26% of students and 26% of teachers reported hearing negative remarks about sexual orientation or gender non-conformity.
  • 26% of students and 21% of teachers reported hearing negative remarks about race or ethnicity.
  • 10% of students and 7% of teachers reported hearing negative remarks about religion.
That gives you a pretty good feel for who's telling the truth between LGBT activists and Christian activists over which group is more denigrated.  Hint: Not the latter.

75% of students and 47% of teachers reported bullying as a serious problem in their school.  That the discrepancy is that large is disturbing, but my experiences kind of bear it out.  I remember numerous classes in which teachers were either painfully unaware of or painfully unwilling to do anything to help a student being bullied.  (A few times that student was me.)

Overall students that didn't conform to "gender norms" reported higher instances of being bullied vs. other students (56% to 33%), higher instances of having rumors spread (46% to 20%), and were less likely to feel "very safe" at school (42% to 61%).  That is...not good.  And unfortunately here it doesn't get better.

Less than half of the teachers surveyed said that a student with same-sex parents (49%) or a transgendered parent or parents (41%) would be likely to feel safe at their school.  Despite this fact, only 81% of the teachers surveyed said they would feel comfortable handling LGBT-based bullying.  (I think anything below upper-90s is low when it comes to teachers being willing to stop bullying.  It's part of their job.)  Plus only 48% said they'd feel comfortable addressing questions about same sex relationships versus 26% saying they'd be uncomfortable and 25% claiming no strong feelings either way.  The numbers regarding transgendered questions are 41% comfortable, 34% uncomfortable, and 24% neutral.  (Presumably rounding accounts for the missing percentages.)

What is perhaps most staggering is that 92% of students reported that they'd been taught not to bully and to respect others, 88% said they'd been taught that boys and girls can do the same things, and 72% had been taught there were "different types of families."  Still, only 18% had learned specifically about same-sex families.

School districts aren't exactly rushing to make up for this either.  While 81% of the teachers reported that their school had an anti-bullying program, only 24% said an aspect of that program (or a separate program) was devoted to LGBT issues.

And even though 85% of the teachers had received training on diversity and addressing bullying, only 37% had been trained on gender issues and 23% had been trained on addressing students with LGBT parents.  30% of the teachers believed they needed more training on students with LGBT families, and 23% said they needed more training on gender non-conformity.

What Does it All Mean?

LGBT issues are growing in scope and popularity faster than schools seem to want to address them.  It's become evident that every school has many students that are either LGBT individuals, or don't conform to gender stereotypes.  State legislative bodies can pass all the anti-bullying laws they like, but the core of the issues is information.  These children need more of if.  The more you know about something, the better equipped you are to handle it.

No comments:

Post a Comment