Advocates for gay
students released results of a survey Wednesday that
they said show how much gay students and their friends are
harassed. The survey of 175 students in 48 Iowa school
districts included a focus on straight students who
have gay friends. The students said being friends with
someone who is gay increased their chance of being harassed.
"Just being the friend of a gay student
increases the likelihood that you'll be threatened,"
said Ryan Roemerman of the Iowa Pride Network, an
advocacy group for gay students.
The survey showed that 43% of students with gay
friends reported they had property stolen or damaged,
compared to 18% of the general student population. It
also found that 94% of gay students reported hearing
derogatory remarks frequently, and that in more than 70% of
those incidents teachers did not intervene. "This
report has demonstrated that homophobia in Iowa's
schools affects all students, straight and gay alike,"
Roemerman said. "Our conclusion is clear: Iowa school
districts must adopt policies that explicitly protect...students."
The survey also found that 60% of gay students
faced incidents of overt harassment and 10% of
straight students with gay friends faced such
harassment. Another 18% reported hearing derogatory remarks
from teachers or school staff.
A survey released by the group in November found
that 58% of students reported their school had no
policy to protect gay students, while nearly 75% said
faculty members rarely or never intervened when homophobic
remarks were made in their presence. The group lobbies
schools to toughen policies protecting gay students.
It also has lobbied the legislature to expand the
state's antibullying law to cover discrimination based on
While local schools must enforce such policies,
setting a statewide standard sends a strong signal,
Roemerman said. The legislature has resisted setting
such standards, and lawmakers said the latest survey is
unlikely to change their view. "Schools should be handling
that," said senate Republican leader Stewart Iverson
of Clarion. "Almost every school board in Iowa has a
policy on that."
With the senate evenly split at 25-25, both
parties must agree before an issue can advance. Gov.
Tom Vilsack and Democratic lawmakers have pushed for
the expansion of the bullying measure in the past, but
Republicans have resisted. Vilsack has again asked the
legislature to expand the antibullying law, but that
legislation has not advanced. (AP)