School Climate & Safety

Gay Youth More Likely to Be Harassed in Rural Areas, Study Finds

By Catherine Gewertz — September 02, 2009 1 min read

It can be tough to be a gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender teenager. But a new study suggests that it can be toughest in rural areas, and in areas with high levels of poverty or low levels of adult educational attainment.

Research by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, published in the August issue of the Journal of Youth and Adolescence, examined regional and school-level variables in school climate for teenagers. It found more bullying and harassment of teens based on sexual orientation or the expression of their gender identity in rural areas than in suburban or urban ones, and in those where poverty is high and education levels are low. (The overview of the journal’s special issue on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth is here.)

A stack of reports attests to the difficulties LGBT youth face in school. Those forms of bullying and harassment have received increasing attention as educators become more aware of the need to create safe and caring school climates. Ed Secretary Duncan has shown a sensitivity to the issue, and one of the highest-profile champions of the cause, former GLSEN executive director Kevin Jennings, leads the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools.

Could all these things point to a change for the better for LGBT teens?

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A version of this news article first appeared in the High School Connections blog.