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Most states fail to protect gay kids in school

Most states fail to protect gay kids in school

Most states in the country receive an F grade when it comes to protecting GLBT students from harassment in school, says a new report released Monday by the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network. "This report highlights what many safe-schools advocates have feared--that our nation's policymakers have failed to give schools the policies and programmatic support they need to change environments where bullying and harassment based on sexual orientation and gender identity are the rule and not the exception," said GLSEN executive director Kevin Jennings. "In classrooms where 'faggot' is heard more often than the Pledge of Allegiance and 39% of LGBT students report being physically assaulted because of their sexual orientation, our schools and the states that govern them are failing." All 50 states and the District of Columbia were given letter grades based on points granted in six categories, including existence of statewide safe-schools laws, statewide nondiscrimination laws, support for education on sexual health and sexuality, local safe-schools policies, general education issues, and existence of laws that stigmatize LGBT people. New Jersey was ranked the most progressive--with a score of 95--and is one of only two receiving an A on the list. Meanwhile, Mississippi ranked at the bottom, the only state with fewer than zero points. Among other findings: --Most students do not have legal protections against antigay bullying and harassment. Only eight states and the District of Columbia currently have statewide laws protecting students from being targeted because of their sexual orientation. Only California, Minnesota, and New Jersey include protections for students targeted because of their gender identity or expression. --Seven states lost points for having on the books laws that stigmatize GLBT people by specifically prohibiting any positive portrayal of GLBT issues or people in schools. Alabama, Arizona, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, and Utah have these laws. --A growing number of states and school districts are making initial efforts to curtail harassment and discrimination in schools through legislative and policy change, but laws and policies have not been passed in the numbers necessary to match the pervasive levels of harassment and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity/expression in America's schools. "As the nation prepares for this fall's campaign season, it is time for local, state, and national candidates--incumbents and challengers alike--to articulate their commitment and legislative plans to address the violence, bias, and harassment so pervasive in America's schools," said GLSEN public policy director Neil Bomberg.

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