School bullying is not getting better…yet!

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New Jersey students still experiencing harassment.

The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network conducted its sixth National School Climate Survey only to find New Jersey LGBT secondary-school students were not being protected by bullying policies and lacked access to resources such as gay-straight alliances.

The biennial study, which comprised more than 200 New Jersey students, reported biased remarks as commonplace. Most students could reference the term “that’s so gay” being used in casual conversation. Nine out of 10 had heard derogatory homophobic remarks such as “fag,” and the same ratio heard negative gender remarks when referencing someone’s femininity or masculinity. Alarmingly, more than 20 percent stated having heard faculty regularly use negative remarks with regard to gender expression and homosexuality.

GLSEN graphicAs inconceivable as that may seem, LGBT students in New Jersey are being verbally and physically harassed and assaulted in great numbers as well. A full 85 percent of the students surveyed admitted to being verbally assaulted (e.g., name calling or threats) based on their orientation, and a staggering 34 percent having experienced some sort of physical harassment (e.g., pushing, shoving). Eighty percent have experienced harassment based on gender expression with 20 percent being physical, and 14 percent say they have been physically assaulted (punched, kicked, or assaulted with a weapon) due to their orientation. Only 1 percent stated they had experienced such assault in regard to religion, race, ethnicity or disability. In addition to these findings, 86 percent of the LGBT students studied reported other forms of harassment such as cyber bullying, damage to or theft of personal property, exclusion from peer events and rumor spreading.

According to the study, only about one in four students could identify a comprehensive bullying/harassment policy specific to sexual orientation or gender expression/identity within their schools. On the positive side, almost all of the students were able to identify at least one supportive faculty member. About half of the schools had a gay-straight alliance but less than half had any library or Internet access to relevant resources. 

The study showed that 65 percent of the students harassed did not report it to staff and almost the same percentage never mentioned it to family. Of those who reported the incidents to school officials, only 38 percent felt confident the situation was effectively handled.

GLSEN Silence graphicGLSEN states that schools with comprehensive bullying/harassment policies, supportive staff, gay-straight alliances, access to resources, and an LGBT-inclusive curriculum demonstrate findings of a more positive school experience for LGBT students and their alliances, including lower absenteeism and victimization, as well as higher academic achievement. They recommend implementing bullying/harassment policies, staff training for responses to LGBT harassment, gay-straight alliances and more LGBT-inclusive curricula.

Dr. Paula Rodriguez Rust, co-chair for GLSEN Central New Jersey, says educators should seek out the resources available through the Safe Schools Coalition as well as GLSEN. “Administrators have to take a strong stand; faculty can’t create respect for LGBT unless they know they have the support of their administrators,” says Rust.

She encourages educators to call GLSEN for faculty professional development training. “In New Jersey, an environment that is hostile to LGBT is discriminatory under the Law Against Discrimination and violates the Students’ Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights in Title 18A; such a school is vulnerable to lawsuit and incompliant with educational law.” Rust also states that parents and educators should teach children that the term “that’s so gay” is offensive and the word “gay” should never be used as an insult.

Oftentimes adults are afraid of the issue and do not approach the topic of “gay,” thinking it means they are talking about sex. “But it does not; it means talking about respect, and there are age-appropriate ways to do it,” Rust asserts.

For more information visit GLSEN Central New Jersey, and the Safe Schools Coalition 

New Jersey students still experiencing harassment.

The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network conducted its sixth National School Climate Survey only to find New Jersey LGBT secondary-school students were not being protected by bullying policies and lacked access to resources such as gay-straight alliances.