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Teachers lead charge against LGBTQ bullying

Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network's new report finds more training needed
Some 85 percent of teachers surveyed received PD to deal with bullying, but just 33 percent received training in LGBTQ issues  (Gettyimages.com: Peopleimages)
Some 85 percent of teachers surveyed received PD to deal with bullying, but just 33 percent received training in LGBTQ issues (Gettyimages.com: Peopleimages)

Educators need specialized professional development to prevent the bullying of LGBTQ students, according to a recent report released by the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network (GLSEN).

The organization’s latest report—“From Teasing to Torment: School Climate Revisited”—examines the prevalence of bullying and its various causes. GLSEN polled more than 1,360 middle and high school students, and 1,015 high school teachers.

The study revealed 85 percent of teachers received PD to deal with bullying. However, just 33 percent received training in LGBTQ issues and only 24 percent in transgender issues. Those numbers leave LGBTQ students more vulnerable to victimization than are other students, the report states.

About 1.3 million youths in grades 9 through 12—about 8.5 percent of the national high school population—identify themselves as lesbian, gay or bisexual, according to a report from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Conversations and clubs

Half of all teachers surveyed said they offer some degree of support—such as openly discussing LGBTQ issues in their classrooms, the report states. For example, teachers can lead conversations about the harm caused by homophobic remarks, says David Danischewski, research assistant for GLSEN.

“That is great, but it also shows that half are not,” he says.

English or social studies teachers can include LGBTQ issues in their curriculum. A lesson on the Civil Rights Act of 1964, for example, can spark a discussion about the rights of LGBTQ people today. And posting anti-hate signs in classrooms can make a student more comfortable, Danischewski says.

In addition, teachers can make themselves available to talk to students who are having problems. And teachers may volunteer to lead gay-straight alliance clubs, which can be a major bullying deterrent.

Students in schools with these clubs reported hearing fewer anti-LGBTQ remarks and had more positive attitudes toward LGBTQ people, compared to students in schools without an alliance, the report states.

About 36 percent of teachers and students reported having such a club at their school.

Power of policy

Respecting gender identity and expression is another critical part of anti-bullying policies, the report states. Students in a school that has a policy—and that protects LGBTQ students—hear fewer homophobic, transgender and racist remarks.

An example is San Diego USD’s policy which states that if bullying or intimidation takes place based on a student’s actual or perceived characteristics—including gender identity—the victim has a right to file a claim.

And follow-up discipline comes in the form of oral warnings, written warnings, mandatory training, counseling or suspension, depending on the incident.

“Administrators are the leaders of establishing the school climate,” Danischewski concludes. “If they demonstrate they care, if they promote that culture, I think you’ll see everybody having a safe and affirming space to learn.”