Anti-gay harassment tougher on middle-schoolers

“For many gay youth, middle school is more survival than learning – one parent of a gay teenager I spent time with likened her child’s middle school to a ‘war zone’,” wrote Benoit Denizet-Lewis in the New York Times Magazine. He told of a middle school counselor in Maine who says anti-gay language is embedded in middle-school culture, and – because more LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] students are coming out in younger ages – schools are “playing catchup to try to keep them safe.” These observations were borne out in a new study from GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network) showing that middle-school-level “LGBT students are significantly more likely to face hostile school climates than high school LGBT students, yet have less access to school resources and support.” Some key numbers from the study: 91% of LGBT middle-school students and 86% of high school students surveyed had been verbally harassed because of their sexual orientation; 59% of LGBT m.s. students and 43% of h.s. students had experienced physical harassment because of their sexual orientation; and 39% of LGBT m.s. students and 20% of h.s. students had been assaulted in school because of their sexual orientation. See also “When Teenagers Question Their Sexuality”, a Q&A in the Times’s “Consults” blog” with psychiatrist Jeffrey Fishberger of the Trevor Project, which runs a national 24-hour crisis and suicide hot line for LGBT youth.

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