In its 2013 "National School Climate Survey: The Experiences of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Youth in Our Nation's Schools," GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network surveyed nearly 8,000 students of ages of 13 and 21, representing more than 2,700 school districts from all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
It found that only half of LGBT students attended a school that had a Gay/Straight Alliance or similar student club. Most students reported they did not have access to information about LGBT related topics in their school library, through the Internet on school computers, or in their textbooks or other assigned readings.
Fewer than one in five students said they were taught positive representations of LGBT people, history, or events in their classes. Nearly the same amount reported learning negative content about LGBT topics. Few students said that their school had a comprehensive anti-bullying or harassment policy that specifically included protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity or expression.
Gay/Straight Alliances enhance the school climate, said Noreen Giga, a research associate with GLSEN. The agency estimates there are around 4,000 alliances nationwide, mostly in urban areas in the North. Students feel safer when they know faculty and staff are supportive of them, said Giga. Gay/Straight Alliances give students a space to come together, share their experience and be advocates.
"LGBT students who have a GSA in their school are less likely to hear homophobic remarks or negative remarks about gender expression, and they are more likely to see school personnel intervene when there are instances of homophobic remarks being made," Giga added. "Students are less likely to feel unsafe because of their sexual orientation."
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