Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) and questioning youth face unique challenges growing up. All too often, these young people are subjected to harassment and bullying in their schools, harassment that may extend to people who are only perceived to be LGBT, or to the children of LGBT parents. A 2005 survey of New York State students found that 72% of respondents had heard homophobic comments in school, while 57% reported hearing negative comments about a person’s gender expression. LGBT youth may also face hostility at home and from their families.
Because they feel unsafe, victimized youth can be pushed out of schools and into high-risk behavior. The 2009 New York City Youth Risk Behavior Survey found that 15.9% of gay and lesbian-identified youth, 14.6% of bisexual-identified youth, and 16.6% of students who were unsure about their sexual identity had skipped school in the past month because they felt unsafe, as opposed to 7.8% of heterosexual-identified youth. These students are also at an increased risk for substance abuse, dropping out of school, homelessness and suicide. According to data collected by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, 40% of gay, lesbian and bisexual high school students will attempt suicide, as opposed to 10% of their non-gay peers. Support services are likely to be inadequate to assist these young people, or may even compound the problem.
- The Dignity for All Students Act, which protects students from harassment based on traits such as race, religion, ethnicity, sex, gender (including gender identity and expression), physical and mental ability and sexual orientation, went into effect on July 1, 2012. It establishes an anti-bullying and discrimination policy for all New York’s public schools and creates programs that foster a harassment-free environment in schools.
- With the Pride Agenda’s help, Dignity was recently extended to include cyberbullying, targeting bullying and harassment via electronic communication.
The Pride Agenda played a major role in passing the Dignity for All Students Act, working with numerous organizations and the government to ensure that any child can receive a quality public education in a safe, harassment-free environment. As the community’s government watchdog, the Pride Agenda is committed to ensuring that the law is implemented effectively. If you think the Dignity for All Students Act is being violated in your community, report it to us right away at takeaction AT prideagenda DOT org.