While most elementary students are taught they shouldn’t bully each other or call each other names, many report that they hear classmates say things like “you’re so gay” or “that’s so gay,” according to a new nationwide survey commissioned by the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network.
The survey, of 1,065 3rd through 6th graders and about 1,100 teachers, also found that while 85 percent of teachers have had professional-development training about bullying or harassment, fewer than half reported they would feel comfortable responding to questions from their students about gay, lesbian, or bisexual people. They said they seldom receive professional development about lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender families or gender issues and want training on these topics.
The survey—one of few that have examined bias among young students—found that fewer than half of teachers say male students who act or look traditionally feminine would feel comfortable at the school where they teach, and a quarter of both the students and the teachers report hearing other students use labels such as “fag” or “lesbo” at least occasionally.
Along with the survey, conducted by Harris Interactive, the New York City-based GLSEN unveiled a toolkit called “Ready, Set, Respect!” to help elementary school teachers develop respectful behavior in their students.
A version of this article appeared in the January 25, 2012 edition of Education Week as Gay Slurs Found to Be Common Talk in Schools