LGBTQ study finds students fear discrimination, skip school

LGBTQ study finds students fear discrimination, skip school
Published: Apr. 20, 2023 at 9:19 PM EDT|Updated: Apr. 20, 2023 at 11:38 PM EDT
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ATLANTA, Ga. (Atlanta News First) - A new study by Emory University Goizueta Business School and the National Center for Civil and Human Rights reveals concerning information about LGBTQ students at schools in southern states.

One in five LGBTQ respondents reports skipping school and other activities out of fear of discrimination. One in four transgender respondents reports skipping school.

Emory Professor Giacomo Negro helped conduct the study of more than 1300 respondents across 13 southern states from Texas to Virginia between June 2021 and March 2022.

“The goal is to understand the lives of LGBTQ people and the challenges and barriers they face in everyday life,” said Negro.

The study also found only 20 percent of respondents described faculty or staff as supportive or very supportive of their identities. Lack of support can negatively impact a student’s mental health, performance, and opportunities years later.

“People with higher levels of education tend to have higher rates of employment and higher earnings,” said Negro.

According to the CDC, nearly 25 percent of high school students identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or questioning.

The community has battled growing bans on LGBTQ books in schools, “Don’t say gay” bills and bans on transgender youth in sports in nearly half of U.S. states.

Beth Littrell, senior supervising attorney for Southern Poverty Law Center, said the LGBTQ community is feeling the impact of the anti-LGBTQ rhetoric.

“It’s creating a terrible place for students where they should feel safe and respected,” said Littrell. “Children who don’t feel safe to go to school. Kids who spend an enormous amount of time navigating hostile hallways.”

Littrell said parents, peers, and administrators are responsible for creating a more supportive environment for LGBTQ students. She also said educators needed to do better at calling out bad behavior in classrooms.

“You’d be surprised at how effective it is when they call out a student - the bully, not the victim,” she explained.

Implementing additional supportive programming is also key to improving conditions.

“Support the creation of LGBTQ associations or provide more resources,” said Negro. “Anything we can do to allow high school students or members of the LGBTQ community to express themselves happily.”