STUDY: GLSEN Report Indicates LGBT Students In Rural Areas At Greater Risk

A study released this week by the Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network indicates that LGBT students in rural areas are victimized more but have less access to resources and support than kids in urban environments.

Strengths and Silences: The Experiences of LGBT Students in Rural and Small Town Schools used data collected from more than 8,000 secondary-school students who were polled in GLSEN’s 2011 National School Climate Survey.

Among the study’s findings:

·         87% of rural LGBT students reported being verbally harassed, 45% reported being physically harassed and 22% reported being physically assaulted at school in the past year because of their sexual orientation.

·         91% of rural LGBT students heard “gay” used in a negative way (e.g., “that’s so gay”) and 79% of LGBT students frequently or often heard other homophobic remarks (e.g., “dyke” or “faggot”) at school.

·         3 in 5 (61%) rural LGBT students heard remarks about students not acting “masculine” enough; 42% had heard similar comments about students not acting “feminine” enough frequently or often at school.

·         Only 13% of rural LGBT students reported that school personnel intervened always or most of the time when they heard homophobic remarks, and 11% said school personnel intervened when they heard negative remarks related to gender expression.

·         Rural LGBT students who experienced higher levels of victimization were less likely to plan to attend college than students who experienced lower levels of victimization (85% vs 93%).

·       Only  11% of rural LGBT students reported having an LGBT-inclusive curriculum (i.e., having been taught positive things about LGBT people, history, or events in their classes), significantly less than the 18% of suburban and 20% of urban students.

·         27% of rural students reported having a GSA at school, compared to 55% of suburban students and 53% of urban students. But when there was a GSA at school, rural students were more likely to attend than urban and suburban students.

·         Rural LGBT students were significantly less comfortable talking about LGBT issues to school personnel than either urban or suburban students.

·         36% of rural LGBT students had missed class and/or a day of school in the past month due to feeling unsafe, compared to 30% of suburban LGBT students and 30% of urban LGBT students.

“These students are frequently the most isolated , both physically and in terms of access to critical resources and support,” stated GLSEN Executive Director Dr. Eliza Byard. “Our findings require us to both honor their resilience and respond to their needs.”