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Gay youth suicide in the U.S.

04/10/2010

As you know, following the terrible tragedy that befell Tyler Clementi, a student at Rutgers University in the U.S., there has been a great deal of interest in a number of other cases where young people have taken their own lives as a result of homophobic bullying. Over the years there have been a number of excellent studies demonstrating the difficulties  lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender young people face at school, and yet it seems that the tide has yet to change. I’d like to draw your attention to two great large-scale studies that clearly demonstrate the need for anti-homophobic bullying interventions in U.S. public schools.

The first study was conducted in 2004 by the California Safe Schools Coalition in conjunction with academics at the University of California, Davis (the California Healthy Kids Survey) and involved 237, 544 school students in grades 7-11 (7.5% of whom had been bullied because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation). The final report, Safe Place to Learn, demonstrated that, when compared to those students perceived to be heterosexual, those identified as lesbian, gay or bisexual were more likely to report a grade C average or lower (24% versus 17%), were more likely to report having missed school in the last month (27% versus 7%), were more likely to be threatened by someone holding a weapon (28% versus 5%) and were more likely to carry a weapon to school (19% versus 5%).

More recently, GLSEN’s 2009 National School Climate Survey of 7,261 middle and high school students indicated that 9 out of 10 LGBT students had experienced harassment at school in the past year and nearly two-thirds reported feeling unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation. Almost one third of students said that they missed at least one day of school in the past month because of concerns for personal safety. While the results showed that since 1999 there has been a gradual reduction in the frequency of overheard homophobic comments, experiences of severe forms of bullying have remained constant.

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