LGBTQ youth are more likely than cisgender heterosexuals to face violence and other forms of bullying. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance found that 34 percent of LGBTQ students have been bullied on school property, compared to 19 percent of heterosexual students. Ten percent of LGBTQ students have been threatened or injured with a weapon on school property, compared to 5.1 percent of heterosexual students.
Furthermore, GLSEN’s 2015 National School Climate Survey found that 85 percent of LGBTQ students have been verbally harassed within the last year, and 32 percent have missed a day of school in the last month due to feeling unsafe. However, safety is a systemic concern that goes beyond individual interactions with other students. Eighty-two percent of LGBTQ students feel their school has policies and practices that are discriminatory. Students reported being disciplined for same-gender public displays of affection (30 percent), being prevented from wearing clothing deemed “inappropriate” for their sex (22 percent), and banned from bringing same-gender dates to school dances (16 percent). These negative experiences within the school-based environment lead to poorer educational and health outcomes for LGBTQ youth. LGBTQ youth are more at-risk for having lower GPAs, less likely to plan for higher education, and more likely to have self-esteem problems. These outcomes are exacerbated by the fact that many educational institutions lack supportive resources in the form of advocates, programs, curricula, or policies.
In 2014, foundations awarded $8.3 million to address LGBTQ issues in education and safe schools in United States, or 7% of total LGBTQ funding. This is a 9.5% increase from 2013, when LGBTQ education received $7.9 million.
The majority of support in 2014 went towards general operating, representing 42% of total funds. Program support and scholarships were categories that also received significant funding.
LGBTQ Education Funding, by Type of Support (2014)
Top Funders 2014
|California Endowment, The||$711,000||9%|
|Greater Seattle Business Association||$310,000||4%|
Top Grantees 2014
|Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN)||$2,687,366||32%|
|Gay-Straight Alliance Network (GSA Network)||$1,054,750||13%|
|Hetrick-Martin Institute (HMI)||$356,180||4%|
|Equality New Mexico||$300,000||4%|
|Berklee College of Music||$250,000||3%|
|Our Family Coalition||$211,000||3%|
|University of Arizona||$154,000||2%|
|Illinois Safe Schools Alliance||$116,500||1%|
** Anonymous grantees received 1.1 million in funding (13% of total education funding) in 2014, including $769,061 in scholarship funds awarded by the Point Foundation.
For funders seeking to foster safe school environments and to improve educational outcomes for LGBTQ students, there are a number of community assets to build on:
- There are several national LGBT organizations that advocate for safe schools for LGBT youth, including GLSEN, the GSA Network, and the Tyler Clementi Foundation.
- Several statewide safe schools coalitions and GLSEN chapters advocate for better state-level policies for LGBT students, as well as a number of LGBT state equality organizations that advocate for safe schools alongside other LGBT equality issues.
- There are thousands of Gay-Straight Alliances in high schools around the country, several of which are organized into state-level GSA Networks , and dozens of other LGBT youth service organizations and advocacy groups.
Building on these assets, funders have several opportunities for making a positive impact in the lives of LGBTQ students:
- Training for Teachers andAdministrators: Teachers, counselors, coaches and school administrators are critical allies for LGBTQ students. Yet, many lack the awareness and training to intervene and assist students in need and to serve as role models for acceptance. Funders can support and expand valuable training programs and other resources that will make schools more welcoming and supportive of LGBTQ students.
- Expand GSAs: The presence of GSAs in schools has been proven to improve school climate for LGBTQ students, reduce bullying and harassment, and improve student success. In addition, youth-led coalitions foster greater understanding and acceptance in schools, including effective advocacy for changes in policies. Numerous local, state, and national organizations would benefit from increased investment that would enable the expansion of these effective clubs.
- Community-based Education Reform Organizations: Reforming education to ensure student success requires community involvement and leadership. Organizations leading these efforts must be inclusive and address the needs of all students, including those who are LGBTQ. Funders are in a unique position to not only support such organizations, but to also increase awareness and help to make their efforts more comprehensive and inclusive.
- Community-Led Law Enforcement Training: Not unlike teachers and administrators, local law enforcement officials can benefit from improved training to allow them to better serve their diverse communities and address the needs of LGBTQ students, in particular. By supporting such training programs, funders can help to improve the safe and compassionate treatment all students deserve.
- Support Anti-Bullying Initiatives: Beyond punitive action, the most effective and long-term approaches to anti-bullying policies and programs include a restorative justice component that emphasizes repairing the harm caused by harmful words and actions. By supporting such efforts, funders can help communities to learn, heal, and ensure that LGBTQ students are treated with dignity and respect.
Research and Resources
- GLSEN’s biennial National School Climate Survey provides data on the disproportionate bullying and school climate challenges faced by LGBTQ students.
- The CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System has documented the increased health risks faced by lesbian, gay, and bisexual students.
- The Advancement Project, Alliance for Educational Justice, and the GSA Network have published a report entitled, “Two Wrongs Don’t Make A Right: Why Zero Tolerance is Not the Solution to Bullying,” which identifies recommendations for making schools safer for all students, working to decrease both bullying and harsh disciplinary measures that push many students out of school.