Karine Jean-Pierre
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LGBTQ+ Topics Rarely Discussed in Schools, New Study Finds

LGBTQ+ School Climate Survey

Despite what some conservatives would claim, the vast majority of American students aren't exposed to teaching about LGBTQ+ issues in school.

Not only is this lack of representation unhelpful, but it also harms LGBTQ+ students in general. Additionally, a significant decrease in support for LGBTQ+ students is evident, according to the 2021 School Climate Survey published by GLSEN Tuesday.

Across the country, LGBTQ+ students experience hostility, bullying, victimization, and discrimination on a daily basis, the research found. As a result, many avoid participating in school activities or skip school entirely.

Nearly all LGBTQ+ students (97 percent) hear the word "gay" used negatively at school. In addition, a little more than 83 percent of LGBTQ+ students hear negative remarks specifically about transgender people.

The survey also found that most LGBTQ+ students who attended school in person — about 83 percent — experienced harassment or assault due to personal characteristics during the 2021-2022 academic year.

LGBTQ+ students reported being discriminated against at school due to their sexual orientation or gender identity in about 60 percent of cases. The gender of LGBTQ+ students has been identified as a target of discriminatory policies and practices, limiting their options and negatively affecting their school experiences, the survey found.

The survey results reinforce the reality that the LGBTQ+ community and public school teachers are not indoctrinating students nationwide into a radical liberal sexualized agenda. 

Conservative influencers, media figures, and lawmakers have spent months fearmongering and breathlessly warning parents of LGBTQ+ people coming for their children.

There was no LGBTQ-related instruction for 76.6 percent of LGBTQ+ students in their schools, the report states. About 16 percent of LGBTQ+ students were taught positive representations of LGBTQ+ people and events; 14.4 percent were taught negative material. Compared to students who attended school only in person, students who attended school online, both hybrid and all online, were more likely to say LGBTQ+ topics were discussed positively. 

More than seven percent of LGBTQ+ students received LGBTQ-affirming sex education, including positive representations of LGBTQ+ topics and lesbian, gay, bisexual, nonbinary, and transgender people. In addition, compared to students who attended school only in person, students who attended only in online or hybrid learning environments were more likely to receive any type of sex education, including LGBTQ- inclusive sex education, the survey says.

Importantly, the survey's results belie the conservative assertion that inappropriate books — which, in right-wingers' opinion, include LGBTQ-related books — are being forced on students.

Fewer than 1 percent, or 0.4 percent to be exact, of LGBTQ+ students reported that content about LGBTQ+ matters were included in many of their textbooks or assigned readings. 

Only a fifth of LGBTQ+ students reported that textbooks or other assigned readings included LGBTQ-related issues at all. About 43 percent of these students reported finding information about LGBTQ-related topics in their school library.

Study results indicate that LGBTQ+ students who experience discrimination and victimization at school perform worse academically and psychologically.

Those who experienced anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination at school missed school three times as often as those who did not, and their GPAs were lower than those whose peers had not, the report states. The students were also more likely to be disciplined at school, be depressed, and have lower self-esteem.  

In contrast, the survey reports that a safer, more supportive environment at school contributes to better academic outcomes for LGBTQ+ students. In addition, resources related to LGBTQ+ education improve the overall school experience for LGBTQ+ students. However, the authors note that "unfortunately, all too many schools fail to provide these critical resources."

The director of GLSEN's Research Institute, Joseph Kosciw, indicated in a press release that there is a significant cause for alarm.

"The 2021 National School Climate Survey reveals that LGBTQ+ students are experiencing unacceptable rates of bullying and discrimination in the classroom, which impacts their mental health, self-esteem, and educational aspirations," Kosciw said. "But our research also points to how schools can better support LGBTQ+ students: evidence shows that inclusive policies, [gay-straigh aliances], and supportive educators play a critical role in creating encouraging educational environments where all students can thrive." 

Having found that over half of LGBTQ+ students experienced discrimination at school, the authors discovered that most forms of discrimination against LGBTQ+ students decreased from prior years in 2019.  However, discrimination against LGBTQ+ students increased in 2021, including restrictions on names and pronouns, clothing that is based on gender, clothing that supports LGBTQ+ issues, school dances, and generally being disciplined for identifying as LGBTQ+, the survey found.

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