Making Schools Safe for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Students
School safety is a problem for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students – or for youth who don’t conform to expectations for sexuality and gender. What steps can schools take to promote school safety for LGBT students – and for all students?
Making Schools Safe for Everyone
In recent years, several studies have examined steps that schools can take to ensure the safety of all students, with a specific focus on LGBT students. Five strategies have been shown to make a difference for school safety for LGBT students:
- School policies that prohibit harassment based on LGBT status.
- Teacher intervention to stop anti-gay slurs or harassment.
- Gay-straight alliance clubs (or other student clubs that promote inclusion and diversity).
- Access to information and support for students about LGBT issues.
- Inclusion of LGBT issues in the curriculum.
Having a policy that prohibits discrimination based on actual or perceived sexual orientation is an important first step for establishing other positive changes for the school environment. The presence of clear anti-harassment and non-discrimination policies provide the basis for the other four school safety strategies. When each of the additional school safety strategies is present in schools, students – both LGBT and heterosexual (“straight”) – report less LGBT-based harassment and bullying and a stronger feeling of safety.
What Parents And Community Members Can Do
Based on this research, the California Safe Schools Coalition gives the following recommendations for parents, guardians, and community members:
- Ask your children what happens at school when bias-related name-calling, harassment, and bullying occur. Ensure that they know what to do if they are harassed.
- Talk to your children about sexual orientation and gender identity, name calling, and discrimination.
- Speak out in support of specific steps school districts and schools can take. Good steps schools can take include:
- Publicizing and enforcing anti-harassment policies.
- Supporting gay-straight alliance clubs.
- Providing resources to students.
- Training teachers and other staff.
- Measuring bias-related harassment in your local school district.
- Including LGBT people and information about sexual orientation and gender identity in the curriculum.
This Report Is Based On:
O’Shaughnessy, M., Russell, S. T., Heck, K., Calhoun, C., & Laub, C. (2004). Safe Place to Learn: Consequences of Harassment Based on Actual or Perceived Sexual Orientation and Gender Non-Conformity and Steps for Making Schools Safer. San Francisco, CA: California Safe Schools Coalition. URL: http://www.casafeschools.org/SafePlacetoLearnLow.pdf
Russell, S. T., & McGuire, J. K. (2008). The School Climate for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Students. In M. Shinn & H. Yoshikawa (Eds.), Changing Schools and Community Organizations to Foster Positive Youth Development. (pp.133-158). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
The Safe Schools Coalition: www.safeschoolscoalition.org
GLSEN - Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network: www.glsen.org