How Safe Are Our Schools

UWD Launches Program for LGBT Youth

United Way of Delaware (UWD) is entering a new arena, supporting the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) community with its newly formed PRIDE Council. This council is composed of youth, as well as representatives from many of UWD’s major corporate and nonprofit partners and will focus on UWD’s new partnership with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Delaware (BBBSDE).

Thanks to funding from UWD and the Jessie Ball duPont Fund, BBBSDE will implement a mentoring program aimed at LGBTQ youth in Delaware. (The “Q” stands for “questioning.”)

This mentoring program is scheduled to launch at a summit in October 2012 and will initially focus on middle and high schools. The program will help each school form a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA). UWD is seeking council members as well as mentors for this initiative. For more information, contact Bob Martz at

Although this is a new area of focus for UWD, the organization is jumping in full-force. As a member of Delaware’s Anti-Bullying Taskforce, UWD leadership advocated for House Bill 268, which recently passed both houses of the Delaware General Assembly and is awaiting Gov. Jack Markell’s signature. As a result of this bill, schools will be required to make a judgment about whether bullying incidents were due at least in part to a person’s race, age, marital status, creed, religion, color, sex, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression or national origin.

You may find the statistics below rather startling. Please report all incidents of bullying. Yes you can do something about it. If you get no satisfaction from the school authorities, contact your State Representatives. There are rules already in place that must be adhered to.

Our Letter To The Editor of the News Journal appeared Friday 10-8-10.....slightly edited. Here is the original:

Where Is The Outrage? Raymond Chase, 19; Tyler Clementi, 18; Billy Lucas, 15; Asher Brown, 13; Seth Walsh, 13. Five gay-related teen suicides in 3 weeks! All having to do with bullying in their school/college. Today's gay-bashing climate in politics & religion has much to do with this. Our thoughts & prayers go out to the families & friends of these young people.

Part of the why gay bashing/bullying thrives >> Andrew Shirvell, an assistant attorney general in Michigan created a blog to harass openly gay student body president, Chris Armstrong, of The University of Michigan.

Or how about this> Senator Chambliss of Georgia appoligized to the gay community for an internet slur that came from a staffer in his office that said "all gays must die". Or, why does the Pope think our gay children are "intrinsically disordered". With this type of climate, what are our young people who are questioning their sexual orientation to think?

This is heart-breaking. Please help to stop the hate NOW!

There's been an ongoing debate about lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer bullying in schools across America. Happily, organizations like the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN) released The 2011 National School Climate Survey, with statistics that unfortunately tell a shocking story.

Just reading them by anyone paints a very sobering tale:

  • 81.9% of LGBTQ students reported being verbally harassed, 38.3% reported being physically harassed and 18.3% reported being physically assaulted at school in the past year because of their sexual orientation
  • 63.9% of LGBTQ students reported being verbally harassed, 27.1% reported being physically harassed and 12.4% reported being physically assaulted at school in the past year because of their gender expression.
  • 84.9% of LGBTQ students heard "gay" used in a negative way (e.g., "that's so gay") and 71.3% heard homophobic remarks (e.g., "dyke" or "faggot") frequently or often at school.
  • 6 in 10 LGBTQ students (63.5%) reported feeling unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation; and 4 in 10 (43.9%) felt unsafe because of their gender expression.
  • LGBTQ students reported feeling unsafe in specific school spaces, most commonly locker rooms (39.0%), bathrooms (38.8%) and physical education/gym class (32.5%).
  • Transgender students experienced more hostile school climates than their non-transgender peers - 80% of transgender students reported feeling unsafe at school because of their gender expression.
  • Nearly one third of LGBTQ students (29.8%) reported skipping a class at least once and 31.8% missed at least one entire day of school in the past month because of safety concerns.
  • The reported grade point average of students who were more frequently harassed because of their sexual orientation or gender expression was lower than for students who were less often harassed (2.9 vs. 3.2).
  • Increased levels of victimization were related to increased levels of depression and decreased levels of self-esteem.
  • 60.4% of LGBTQ students never reported an incident of harassment or assault to school personnel.
  • A considerable number of students reported discriminatory policies or practices against LGBTQ people by their school or school personnel. Students indicated the most common discriminatory policy or practice was related to treatment of LGBTQ relationships (e.g., related to dates for school dances and public display of affection).
  • Being out in school had positive and negative repercussions for LGBTQ students - outness was related to higher levels of victimization, but also higher levels of psychological well-being.

What can we as both a community and individuals do with these chilling facts and help to prevent and eventually end anti-bullying in our schools at home and nationwide?

GLSEN stated that "having a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) in school was related to more positive experiences for LGBT students, including: hearing fewer homophobic remarks, experiencing less victimization because of sexual orientation and gender expression, being less likely to feel unsafe because of their sexual orientation (54.9% of students with a GSA vs. 70.6% of other students) and having a greater sense of belonging to their school community."

Clearly we need to be encouraging and supporting GSA's within our local school districts. Many of us may not have children in our schools but we pay taxes and have a voice.

Another way to combat bullying in schools is through legislation. By getting our local, state and federal legislators to pass anti-bullying laws that include sexual orientation and gender identity give all of us the necessary tools to provide safe learning spaces for LGBTQ students.