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Education

Are LGBTQ Students Any Safer In Schools Today?

Hundreds protest a Trump administration announcement this week that rescinds an Obama-era order allowing transgender students to use school bathrooms matching their gender identities, at the Stonewall Inn on February 23, 2017 in New York City.
Hundreds protest a Trump administration announcement this week that rescinds an Obama-era order allowing transgender students to use school bathrooms matching their gender identities, at the Stonewall Inn on February 23, 2017 in New York City.

Activist and journalist Bil Browning describes part of his childhood this way:

The bullying started as early as first grade for me, steadily getting worse as time wore on. Classmates quickly pegged me as “the gay one” and that was that. Turns out, they were right.

Like me, nine out of ten LGBTQ teens today report being bullied in school. Almost half of LGBTQ teens report being physically harassed, and another quarter have been physically assaulted.

As the social outcast, I found that being alone became both a protection and its own trauma. An avid reader, I lost myself in stories of other places and people. Instead of friends, words were my companions and a toy bus, empty of tormentors, was my protector.

That was in the 1980s. How are things today?

Earlier this year, The Human Rights Campaign released a study with the University of Connecticut about LGBTQ youth. Here is some of what they found.

•More than 70 percent report feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness in the past week;

•Only 26 percent say they always feel safe in their school classrooms — and just five percent say all of their teachers and school staff are supportive of LGBTQ people;

•Sixty-seven percent report that they’ve heard family members make negative comments about LGBTQ people

Even though these numbers look bleak, Teen Vogue points out that there is a positive spirit among LGBTQ youth now. They say the HRC study found that 91 percent of respondents reported feeling pride in their identity, and 93 percent feel proud to be a member of the LGBTQ community.

What are the best practices in the classroom, on the school bus and at home regarding making kids safer?

A simple toy that helped Bil Browning cope with being bullied is now part of the holdings of the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. You can read his article, which is excerpted above, in this month’s Smithsonian Magazine. This program was produced as part of our partnership with Smithsonian Magazine.

Produced by Danielle Knight. Text by Gabrielle Healy.

GUESTS

Ellen Kahn, Director, Children, Youth and Families Program, Human Rights Campaign, an LGBTQ rights advocacy organization

Adriana Ibanez, Youth ambassador, Human Rights Campaign, an LGBTQ rights advocacy organization; sophomore, University of California, Santa Barbara

Steven Chen, Director of Training and Accommodations, Boston Public Schools; certified-facilitator, Welcoming Schools initiative

Sasha Heavey, Learning specialist, Gardner Pilot Academy in Boston

Nick Hodge, English teacher, Thomasville Highschool in southern Georgia

For more, visit https://the1a.org.

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