School Climate & Safety

Tackling Bullying Based on Sexual Identity

By Dakarai I. Aarons — September 28, 2009 1 min read

School bullying is a serious issue almost everywhere. But there’s a growing concern about bullying targeting a particular population of students.

Students who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender (or who other students assume are) experience not only taunting and ridicule, but physical violence from some of their peers.

A new research brief, published by GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, found many “GLBT-identifying” middle school students were reporting harassment and hearing homophobic epithets at school on a regular basis.

Thirty-nine percent of surveyed students said they had been physically assaulted, almost twice the 20 percent of high school students who reported similar treatment.

GLESN timed its study’s release to coincide with this article in the New York Times Magazine about students who are “coming out” at a much earlier age: middle school. The story talks not only about how parents are approaching the coming out of their children, but how schools are tackling the issue.

While some schools have encouraged students to form Gay-Straight Alliance clubs and have participated in the National Day of Silence, which targets anti-GLBT school bullying, others have fought student attempts to create such organizations, leading to lawsuits.

Bullying of GLBT students got more attention last year after a gay California middle student was shot and killed by a fellow student, and at least two students in other states hung themselves earlier this year after being taunted by other students. Neither of those students self-identified as GLBT.

Not only are other students perpetuating the behavior, but so are teachers. A Newsweek story tells the story of one Minnesota student who said he endured serious verbal abuse from teachers who thought he was gay.

How is your district tackling bullying? Has your school board created any policies dealing specifically with bullying of GLBT students? How should school boards and principals handle the rise of bullying?

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A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.