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:

  1. School policies that prohibit harassment based on LGBT status.
  2. Teacher intervention to stop anti-gay slurs or harassment.
  3. Gay-straight alliance clubs (or other student clubs that promote inclusion and diversity).
  4. Access to information and support for students about LGBT issues.
  5. 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:

  1. 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.
  2. Talk to your children about sexual orientation and gender identity, name calling, and discrimination.
  3. 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:

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.

Useful Resources

The Safe Schools Coalition:

GLSEN - Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network: