Recognizing the Effects of Bullying on LGBTQ Students

Today is the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN)‘s Day of Silence. On this day, LGBTQ students and their allies take a vow of silence as a way to highlight the exclusion and silencing of many LGBTQ people at school. GLSEN’s 2017 National School Climate Survey suggests that 88% of LGBTQ students experience verbal harassment and that almost a third miss school due to feeling unsafe or uncomfortable. Because of this, I want to write a bit about the effects of bullying on LGBTQ students.

Many LGBTQ students experience bullying and are afraid to be themselves.

It can be difficult to fully appreciate the degree to which children and teens experience bullying today. According to the most recent Healthy Kids Colorado Survey, 17% of high school respondents from the Boulder Valley School District report that they experience bullying at school. Whereas 13% report that they experience bullying online or electronically.

The statistics are even worse for middle school students. According to the HKCS, 45% of middle school respondents experience bullying on school grounds. While 22% of respondents report that they experience bullying online or electronically. Can you imagine never being able to get away from the bullying?

Likewise, it can be easy to dismiss the bullying of LGBTQ students as something that “doesn’t happen in Boulder [County]” because we’re “so progressive.” Yet, sadly, it does. According to the HKCS:

  • 31% of LGBTQ students report experiencing bullying on school property
  • 22% report experiencing bullying online or via electronic means
  • For 11% their ethnic background was a source of bullying
  • 22% report that they’ve been teased or called names because of sexual orientation
  • 11% were teased because of gender identity.

The Effects of Bullying on LGBTQ Students

It’s well-known that mental health is a serious issue for kids today. And when you consider the degree to which kids experience bullying, it’s easy to see why this is the case. This is especially true for LGBTQ students. When looking at the mental health of LGBTQ children and teens in Boulder County, the HKCS shows that:

  • 50% experience Depressive Symptoms
  • They’re considerably more likely to engage in self-harm practices and suicidality. When looking at this more closely and comparing it between LGBTQ students and their straight, cisgender peers:
    • 39% report self-harm vs. 12%.
    • In regard to suicide, 34% of LGBTQ students have considered it vs. 12% of their peers.
    • Taking this a step further 26% have created a suicide plan vs. 9% of their peers, and 14% have actually attempted suicide vs. 4% of their peers.

These are sobering statistics, but they don’t have to be the end of the story. Change can happen. Schools with caring adults and the implementation of supportive, inclusive policies can make a meaningful difference in the lives of LGBTQ students.

According to GLSEN’s National School Climate Survey, LGBTQ students in schools with LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum are less likely to feel unsafe in school because of their sexual orientation (41.8% vs. 63.3%) and gender expression (34.6% vs. 47.0%). As well, trans/gender non-conforming students at schools with trans/gender non-conforming student policies report facing less discrimination and are more engaged in school.

And isn’t that what we want to create in our community? A school environment where all of our young people, who are our future, can feel safe and supported so that they can actually learn?

I Want to Help My Child

If you have concerns about the mental health and well-being of your LGBTQ child or teen, contact me. Music therapy may be the support they need. Otherwise, take a look at some of the other community resources for LGBTQ students in Longmont and Boulder.

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