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  • Oct 04, 2021

Stop Bullying LGBTQ+ Youth

All students are at risk of being bullied in school and 20 percent actually experience it. Those statistics double for U.S. high school-aged lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, or asexual (LGBTQ+) students.

By Trisha Lauryn Kibugi (she/her/hers), CHA Undergraduate HERlab Intern (2021).

How bullying impacts LGBTQ+ youth.

  • When students feel unsafe at school, they stop attending regularly. More than 10% of LGBTQ+ students reported not going to school due to safety concerns, much higher than their straight, or gender conforming peers (6%).
  • Students who are bullied often feel isolated at school, a downward spiral which reduces social interactions.
  • LGBQT+ youth are likely to internalize their experiences and develop anxiety as well as depressive symptoms.
  • LGBTQ+ youth face increased risk of online bullying, making them more vulnerable.
  • Bullying can be a precursor to suicidal thoughts among queer youth.

Why don’t LGBTQ+ students report being bullied to their teachers?

Laws vary from state to state, with 26 states offering little to no bullying protections to LGBTQ+ students. Some states such as Minnesota and South Dakota prevent schools from adding LGBTQ+ protections to their anti-bullying policies.

In the few states with laws protecting against sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination, there is little enforcement. This leads LGBTQ+ communities to mistrust school officials. As a result, more than half of high school LGBTQ+ youth do not report bullying.

In addition, schools often have tough disciplinary policies that disproportionately impact LGBTQ+ youth. For instance, strict dress codes force students, especially gender minorities, to dress as their sex assigned at birth. Punitive measures like this lead to increased disciplinary action against LGBTQ+ youth and higher suspension and expulsion rates compared to straight and gender confirming peers.

The cycle continues. LGBTQ+ students who graduate with poor school records and inadequate access to mental health support face substandard job prospects, higher rates of unemployment, increased risk for homlessness and exposure to crime. All of which increases the risk of incarceration.

In the summer of 2021, the Department of Education confirmed Title IX, a law prohibiting sex-based discrimination at federally funded institutions. The majority of public schools fall into this category. Three states have regulations prohibiting bullying on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in schools. These hopeful steps are a beginning, but more needs to be done to protect LGBTQ+ youth.

Here’s what you can do:

  • Push your school board to:
    • create and enforce non-discriminatory policies that protect LGBTQ+ students
    • create inclusive school policies and spaces such as gender-neutral bathrooms, and non-gendered dress codes
  • Create and support affinity groups for LGBTQ+ students
  • Encourage schools to provide free and accessible mental health treatment and services for all students

If you are being bullied and experience feelings of hopelessness or are thinking about suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK) or 1-888-628-9454 for Spanish speakers.

Let’s make a difference together.

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