GLSEN: Resources for LGBTQ youth in schools have declined

Photo by Zackary Drucker as part of Broadly's Gender Spectrum Collection. Credit: The Gender Spectrum Collection. Made available to media outlets via Creative Commons. No derivatives, no commercial use. See guidelines here:

GLSEN last week announced findings findings from the 2021 National School Climate Survey showing a recent decline in the availability of school resources for LGBTQ youth.

GLSEN is a national organization that focuses on LGBTQ issues in education. It has run the School Climate Survey since 1999.

In a statement, the organization said there has been major improvement for queer youth. However, that improvement has stagnated in recent years.

“The National School Climate Survey has been a strong catalyst for transforming education systems for over two decades, but this year’s report shows we must make additional progress before LGBTQ+ youth are at minimum safe in schools where they can thrive and reach their full potential,” said GLSEN Chief of Staff and Deputy Executive Director for Public Policy and Research Aaron Ridings. “Students report a decline in school resources, the COVID-19 pandemic has created a period of mass disruption and trauma, and the attacks on LGBTQ+ youth from anti-LGBTQ+ extremists continue to create a chilling effect that threatens the wellbeing of gay and transgender youth across the country. We need leaders in states across the country who will uphold basic civil and education rights and let educators teach and students learn.”

Findings from the survey include:

  • 83.1% of LGBTQ students who were in-person during 2021-22 experienced harassment or assault due to orientation, gender expression, race or religion.
  • The percentage of LGBTQ students who have a GSA available at their school has dropped significantly since 2019. Access to LGBTQ inclusive books and resources and the number of supportive school personnel also decreased.
  • Students who were in online only learning environments experienced higher rates of online harassment.
  • 58.9% of LGBTQ students experienced discriminatory policies or practices at school. There has been an increase since 2019 in restrictions on students’ use of name and pronouns and clothing based on gender norms.
  • Nearly one-third (32.2%) of LGBTQ students missed at least one day of school in the last month due to feeling unsafe. LGBTQ students also reported having lower self-esteem and higher levels of depression, as a result of the harassment.

“The 2021 National School Climate Survey reveals that LGBTQ+ students are experiencing unacceptable rates of bullying and discriminations in the classroom, which impacts their mental health, self esteem and educational aspirations.” said Joseph Kosciw, director of the GLSEN Research Institute. “But, our research also points to how schools can better support LGBTQ+ students: evidence shows that inclusive policies, GSAs, and supportive educators play a critical role in creating encouraging educational environments where all students can thrive.”

“Being LGBTQ+ makes it so that I always feel like I’m different from everyone else. For example, when I was the only girl who brought another girl to prom, I couldn’t enjoy the experience because of how many stares I got from other students and teachers.” said Via (she/her), a member of GLSEN’s National Student Council. “By censoring books about LGBTQ+ people, prohibiting teachers from talking about queer issues, and purposely blocking GSAs from being established, my school makes it undoubtedly clear that I am not a welcome member of the community as my cisgender and heterosexual peers.”

The report also includes recommendations for schools to improve LGBTQ+ student well-being, including providing:

  • Dedicated support from schools and staff. 
  • Inclusive school policies and anti-bullying safeguards. 
  • LGBTQ+ inclusive curriculum. 
  • GSAs in more schools. 

Illinois does require an inclusive curriculum and policies and many schools do have GSAs. But not all schools in the state have followed through and Illinois has seen the same push for rolling back gains that other states have.

The 2021 National School Climate Survey was conducted online from April through August 2021. The final sample consisted of a total of 22,298 students between the ages of 13 and 21. Students came from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, and Northern Mariana Islands. Just over two-thirds of the sample (67.2%) was White, 33.9% identified as cisgender female and 31.3% as nonbinary, and 30.1% identified as bisexual and 28.8% as gay or lesbian. The average age of students in the sample was 15.4 years and they were in grades 6 to 12, with the largest numbers in grades 9, 10 and 11.

Download the full report, executive summary and related content HERE.