A new study released to coincide with National Coming Out Day, shows that nearly a quarter of all lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered (LGBT) students do not feel safe at school.
The study, conducted by Harris Interactive for the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network, paints a disturbing picture.
It shows that 65 percent of all teens report that they have been verbally or physically harassed or assaulted during the past year.
Appearance was the most common reason, the report says, but found that the next most common reason for frequent harassment is sexual orientation.
One-third of teens reported that students are frequently harassed because they are or are perceived to be lesbian, gay, or bisexual.
LGBT students are three times as likely as non-LGBT students to say that they do not feel safe at school and 90 percent of LGBT students said they have been harassed or assaulted during the past year.
The study, titled “From Teasing To Torment” School Climate in America, A Survey of Students and Teachers” questioned 3,400 students aged 13-18 and over 1,000 secondary school teachers nationwide.
While more than two-thirds of students said their school has some type of anti-harassment policy, less than half of all students say their school has a policy that specifies sexual orientation or gender identity/expression is associated with more students feeling s safe.
Kevin Jennings, the executive director of GLSEN, said that the study shows bullying and harassment can impact a student’s ability to learn.
“It also shows how having anti-harassment policies in schools – particularly those policies that include sexual orientation or gender identity/expression – can be associated with students feeling safer,” said Jennings.
The study also found that 85 percent of secondary school teachers believe that they have an obligation to ensure a safe learning environment for LGBT students.
“It’s a depressing lifestyle with all the negative feedback,” said John Stangel, a gay teenager.
“It’s hard to accept yourself when other people aren’t accepting you,” said Mary, who said she and her friend get made fun of in school because they’re gay. “If you don’t know anybody, it’s hard to come out. Society just needs to realize that it’s just like anything else.”
Brad Becker, executive director of the Gay and Lesbian National Hotline says, “Society is denying these kids the right to information combined with the feeling that they are invincible.”