With the 2016-2017 school year right around the corner, it seems to be the appropriate time to talk about the mental safety of our LGBTQ+ youth. School can be a much different experience for LGBTQ+ students than it is for their straight peers.
According to the CDC, recent studies show that LGBTQ+ students experience physical, sexual violence and bullying at levels far much higher than that of their heterosexual classmates. It's worth noting that this study focuses specifically on students in grades 9-12.
LGBTQ+ Youth vs. Heterosexual Youth
To give you a better understanding, below are a few statistics provided by the CDC of what LGBTQ+ students are more likely to report when compared to that of heterosexual students:
- Being forced to have sex (18% LGBTQ+ vs. 5% heterosexual)
- Sexual dating violence (23% LGBTQ+ vs. 9% heterosexual)
- Physical dating violence (18% LGBTQ+ vs. 8% heterosexual)
- Being bullied at school or online (at school: 34% LGBTQ+ vs. 19% heterosexual; online: 28% LGBTQ+ vs. 14% heterosexual)
These unfortunate experiences can often place LGBTQ+ students at substantial risk for a variety of dangerous outcomes:
- More than 40% of LGBTQ+ students seriously considered suicide and 29% reported attempting suicide in the last year.
- 60% of LGBTQ+ students reported having been so sad or hopeless that they stopped participating in some normal activities.
- LGBTQ+ students were up to 5 times more likely than heterosexual students to report using several illegal drugs.
- More than 1 in 10 LGBTQ+ students have missed school during the past 30 days because of safety concerns.
Preventing negative experiences for LGBTQ+ youth starts with building a safe environment. When talking specifically about educational environments, schools can:
- Establish a culture of inclusion and respect that welcomes students of all types. This type of atmosphere should be constantly associated with all aspects of the school. Reward students who embrace this type of culture and use them as a key influencer.
- Ensure that students interact in a safe manner. Monitor bullying "hot spots" around the school's campus. Obviously this kind of activity will take place where adults are not present.
- Gain adoption from every staff member. If everyone is on the same page, prevention will be much easier for all parties involved.
- Set a tone of respect in every class and lead by example. Poorly-managed classrooms are a breeding ground for hateful, disrespectful actions.
- Make your children and other students aware of the It Gets Better Pledge. Help empower them to spread a positive message about inclusion and encourage them to speak up against bullying when they become aware of it.
The health & well-being of LGBTQ+ youth tends to be an ongoing issue within our school systems. However, if we work together to raise awareness and make it an issue of higher priority, we can make a positive impact on the lives of LGBTQ+ individuals throughout the nation.