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Gay rights
activists release study on harassment

Gay rights
activists release study on harassment

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 sexual orientation. 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)

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