The state of LGBT related anti-bullying legislation in the United States

As the country recognizes and supports LGBT pride and awareness this month, advocates across the country are working to address the problem of LGBT-related bullying in schools.

The Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN) notes that two types of laws exist that are meant to protect LGBT children and youth in schools:  fully enumerated anti-bullying laws and non-discrimination laws.

Enumerated laws are specific to protecting students from bullying related to sexual orientation or gender. There are 15 states with this type of law including Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.

Non-discrimination laws also exist to provide protection for LGBT students in schools. Unlike fully enumerated legislation, some of these laws do not protect against discrimination based on gender identity, which is the case in Wisconsin. However, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Vermont, Washington and the District of Columbia do provide some protection on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

This type of legislation is incredibly important in order to offer both legal and physical protection to students. GLSEN notes that 6 out of 10 students feel unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation and transgender students have an even higher rate at 8 out of 10. Bullying introduces terrible risks for children and perhaps the greatest for LGBT youth. Many children report feeling unsafe in school, but the reality is that many of them actually are not safe. As many as 1 out of 5 have been physically harmed according to the 2009 National School Climate Survey. When children and youth feel threatened at school this often leads to further problems such as depression, thoughts of suicide, poor grades, mental and physical health problems that can extend into adulthood.

This year more and more states are recognizing the need for better and fully enumerated laws and are responding to the need by increasing anti-bullying legislation in order to protect LGBT students.

Two recent examples of these efforts:

The Pennsylvania State Legislature is pushing legislation that will target bullying in schools specifically based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The legislation, known as the Safe Schools Improvement Act, supports a larger education bill to combat bullying and harassment. Read more about it here.

At the federal level, Senator Al Franken has recently reintroduced the Student Non-discrimination Act that offers protection to students against harassment and bullying based on gender or sexual identity. The bill offers nationwide protection, modeled after Title IX legislation, and remedies discrimination in public schools based on gender identity and sexual orientation.

Do you know the laws in your state? What’s being done to protect LGBT students from bullying?

 

New NCAVP report on LGBT-related violence and prevention programs

Coinciding with Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual and Transgender (LGBT) Pride month annually held in June, is a report from the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP), titled Hate Violence Against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and HIV-Affected Communities in the United States in 2012.  The report looks at national level data from 15 programs across 16 states that work towards anti-violence.

The report shows that although there has been a decrease in reported LGBT-related violence nationally, there has been a rise in some states like New York. Also troubling are the report numbers showing that children and young adults aged 29 and under represented almost half of the victims and survivors. This reveals the need to rapidly increase anti-violence programming for children and young adults.

However, the report does share some great examples of organizations already working to combat this violence. Based in Washington D.C., some of these organizations include Gays and Lesbians Opposing Violence (GLOV) and the DC Trans Coalition (DCTC).  The report also noted Project Empowerment that has positively helped to increase access to education and employment for at-risk and disenfranchised LGBT residents.

Below are some recommendations and best practices included in the report:

 

  • Decrease the risk of severe violence and homicide through ending LGBTQ and HIV-affected poverty.
  • Increase funding for LGBTQ and HIV-affected anti-violence support and prevention programs.
  • Community Based Organizations should create programs and campaigns to prevent anti-LGBTQ and HIV-affected harassment and violence.
  • Schools and universities should create LGBTQ and HIV-affected anti-violence initiatives and LGBTQ and HIV-affected-inclusive curricula to reduce hate violence and harassment.
  • Schools, universities, and community-based organizations, including anti-violence programs, service organizations, and faith organizations, should collect data on violence against LGBTQ and HIV-affected people.

LGBT Pride Month

9 out of 10 LGBT students have experienced harassment at school.

LGBT teens are bullied 2 to 3 times more than straight teens.

More than 1/3 of LGBT kids have attempted suicide.

LGBT kids are 4 times as likely to attempt suicide then our straight peers.

National Youth Association

During the month of June a spotlight highlights these statistics and many others concerning the LGBT community. LGBT Pride Month (different from LGBT History Month, which is observed in October) is filled with rallies, parades and outreach events across the country. According to GLAAD, it is held in June “to commemorate the anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion in New York City on June 28, 1969, which most historians consider to be the birth of the modern LGBT movement.”

LGBT youth are exposed to the same type of violence as heterosexual individuals, but they may also experience traumas related to their sexual orientation or gender identity like bullying as a child or teen related to their presumed sexual orientation or gender expression.  In addition, some LGBT youth are exposed to physical or sexual assault (gay bashing) or domestic violence, which carries with it additional stigma and barriers to treatment.  We know what the impact of exposure to violence is on children and youth, and therefore, they are very vulnerable to negative impacts.

During the last year or so, the issue of suicide and LGBT youth received a lot of media attention when at least four LGBT teens committed suicide after they were constantly bullied. Direct or indirect exposure to this violence can have many consequences for youth’s mental health, school performance and everyday life.

According to the Trevor Project, lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth are up to four times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers and more than 1/3 of LGB youth report having made a suicide attempt.

As we discussed in one of our Mental Health Month blogs, building a child/teen’s resilience is the best way to potentially protect them from the consequences of exposure to violence.

Centers for Disease Control Public Health Model provides a great way to start and complete the process of enhancing children’s well-being. Understanding Children’s Exposure to Violence details ways to build resilience, including participation in high-quality early care and education programs to enhance physical, cognitive, and social development and promote readiness and capacity to succeed in school.

We hope you’ll take some time this month to explore the plethora of resources available regarding the LGBT youth community and how exposure to violence impacts them, as well as proven strategies to build resilience and create understanding school environments.

Below is a great video from the Youth Pride Choir and some resources to get you started.

Resources:

CDC – http://www.cdc.gov/lgbthealth/youth.htm

GLSEN Playgrounds and Prejudice Study – http://www.glsen.org/playgroundsandprejudice.html?

GLSEN Ready, Set, Respect! Toolkit – http://www.glsen.org/readysetrespect.html?

Programs:

The Trevor Project – http://www.thetrevorproject.org/

It Gets Better Project – http://www.itgetsbetter.org/

Articles:

The Social Environment and Suicide Attempts in Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Youth –  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3081186/?tool=pubmed

New York Times: Suicide Draws Attention to Gay Bullying – http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/09/21/suicide-of-gay-teenager-who-urged-hope/

NYU to Study Increased Suicide Risk Among LGBT Youth – http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20110913/greenwich-village-soho/nyu-study-increased-suicide-risk-among-lgbt-youth

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