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National Survey Shows Decrease in Anti-LGBT Language at School

From guest blogger Nirvi Shah

A new survey by the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network shows that anti-LGBT language at schools has been decreasing over the years and for the first time in the survey's 12-year history, responses show a significant decrease in victimization based on sexual orientation.

The survey results, released today, include responses from about 8,600 lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students from all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

This year, as has been the case since the first survey in 1999, students' perception of a safer school climate was directly related to the availability of school-based LGBT resources and support, including Gay-Straight Alliances and comprehensive anti-bullying policies, the latter of which enumerate protection for LGBT students.

The survey found that verbal harassment and physical assaults of LGBT students have declined over the last few years, with verbal harassment lower in 2011 than in all previous years of the survey, and physical harassment and assault lower in 2011 than in 2009 and 2007.

"With this report, we are beginning to be able to discern real impact of our efforts," said Eliza Byard, the executive director of the New York-based GLSEN, in a statement. "Much work remains to be done to turn promising change into a concrete, sustainable reality, but those schools and districts that are taking action are beginning to make a real difference in improving the lives of students and providing better educational opportunity for all."

This week, the official platform released by the Democratic National Committee explicitly points out that federal work to prevent the bullying of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth must continue. (Read about other education-related issues addressed in the platform here.)

The Obama administration has pressed for action in schools to prevent and curb bullying of all students, including LGBT youths. Schools also have been warned against taking steps to prevent the formation of gay-straight clubs.

Although the survey found an improvement in school climate for LGBT students, the survey found that more than 80 percent of students experienced harassment at school in the past year because of their sexual orientation, about 64 percent felt unsafe at school for the same reason, and almost one-third skipped a day of school in the past month because of safety concerns.

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