Report Urges More Protection for Gay Students

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School districts have a long way to go in making schools safe for homosexual students, a national organization of gay and gay-supportive educators said in a report released last week.

The Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network graded dozens of schools and districts based on several criteria: whether schools had policies that protect students and employees from discrimination and harassment based on sexual orientation; whether they provided staff training on issues affecting gay youths; whether school libraries had accurate and age-appropriate materials addressing gay issues; whether they supported the formation of alliances between gay and heterosexual students or similar extracurricular clubs; and whether the school or district discussed gay people in the curriculum.

Massachusetts Praised

"The results show a need for immediate and dramatic action to protect our students," Kevin Jennings, the executive director of the New York City-based GLSEN, said in a statement.

The grades covered 128 districts in 20 states.

The report gave a total grade of C to the United States, but it said the national grade would drop to a D without the inclusion of Massachusetts, which was singled out for praise. The state has a gubernatorial commission on gay and lesbian youths, and in 1993 the legislature added sexual orientation to its school anti-discrimination law.

Several districts elsewhere received an A, including Minneapolis, San Francisco, and Ann Arbor, Mich. The report gave an F to 36 districts or schools that had none or only one of the policies recommended by GLSEN.

The Worcester, Mass., schools, for example, received an F because, according to the report, the only criteria it met was having in-service training on gay issues.

James A. Caradonio, the deputy superintendent of the Worcester district, said he had not seen the report but was puzzled by the poor grade.

"The superintendent just sent out a circular on tolerance," and the district does have policies protecting gay students from discrimination, he said. "I don't know what their problem is."

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