One might be tempted to believe that bullying in schools against LGBT students would be on the decline lately. Why wouldn’t it be? There’s increased media focus on equality for the LGBT community, greater representation of LGBT stories in entertainment, and the emerging of the generally more open-minded millennial generation.
Unfortunately, according to a new 20 year-long study shared with The Daily Beast from RTI International, LGBT bullying has actually been increasing.
The 2017 report, entitled “Violence and LGBTQ Communities: What Do We Know, and What Do We Need to Know?” examined a sample of 73,000 LGBT youth and deduced that LGBT youth bullying in schools “has not improved since the 1990s.” RTI also warns that this harassment could have devastating life-long effects for its victims: “Some forms of victimization, particularly those affecting youth, appear to be worsening…This has serious, lifelong impacts on the physical and behavioral health of LGBTQ youth and adults.”
A co-author of the report, Tasseli McKay, told The Daily Beast that since 1992 “LGBTQ students are two to three times more likely than their peers to be physically assaulted or threatened at school.” This also apparently doubles or even potentially quadruples chances that victims will attempt suicide.
McKay expressed her anxiety towards the results, indicating that the LGBT community should stay aware of these new findings and not practice complacency: “The evidence is pretty clear and pretty unsettling…We want to think that things are getting better. In regards to the victimization that young people are experiencing, the trend is toward victimization worsening, not getting better.”
Diego Sanchez, director of advocacy, policy and partnerships for PFLAG, a family and ally organization for LGBT individuals, echoed McKay’s sentiments to The Daily Beast that greater visibility is necessary for LGBT students being bullied, not just those that are being accepted by their peers: “What we don’t always see is all the students who weren’t able to become homecoming king. We amplify the success stories, but some places are too dangerous for people to speak to the discriminatory experiences they face.”
As it turns out, the caustic, xenophobic rhetoric on display in the recent presidential election may have played a role in recent bullying spikes. A survey from The Human Rights Campaign found that 70 percent of the 50,000 youth polled had faced or witnessed bullying in the 30 days after the election and that more than a quarter of LGBT youth reported being personally bullied or harassed since Election Day.
In the face of these grim findings, McKay and Sanchez both believe much can be done to curb the abuse taking place in schools.
In further statements to The Daily Beast, McKay suggested that LGBT students should seek out starting a Gay-Straight Alliance in their schools if one is not already in place, with teachers taking a more active position in counseling the youth. Sanchez similarly advocated that adults responsible for the youth, such school administrators, federal legislators, as well as the president, need to take positive action to let LGBT youth enjoy thrive in school and enjoy their lives:
“All students deserve a fair and equal way to get the same access to education as every other student…This is a time for hope and a time to dream big. This should not be a time for struggle.”