Results of the Missouri School Climate Survey

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2 Results of the Missouri School Climate Survey The Experiences of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer,Questioning and Straight Ally Students in Missouri s Schools A Report from Missouri GSA Network

3 Missouri School Climate The Experiences of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning & Straight Allied (LGBTQ) Students in Missouri s Schools By Morgan Keenan and Erin Seinn Copyright 2013 Missouri GSA Network All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be duplicated or reproduced in any form without prior approval from the publisher; however, permission to reproduce and distribute for non profit, educational purposes is granted. When referencing this document, we suggest the following citation: Keenan, Morgan and Seinn, Erin(2013) Missouri School Climate Survey: The Experiences of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning and Straight Allied (LGBTQ) Students in Missouri s Schools. Missouri: Missouri GSA Network. Missouri GSA Network works directly with LGBTQ youth to cultivate advocates and leaders who fight homophobia and transphobia and strive for social justice in schools in Missouri. Established in 2011, Missouri GSA Network is the state s leading education and advocacy organization for LGBTQ students. We work to improve the quality of life among LGBTQ students by reducing isolation through a statewide network of GSA clubs and coalitions and by providing leadership opportunities and organizing projects centered on social justice. For more information about our research, student leadership programs and development initiatives please visit

4 Outline: I.Introduction II. Methodology III. Key Findings IV. Comparative Results V.Conclusion and Recommendation VI. Acknowledgements

5 Introduction The 2013 Missouri GSA Network s Missouri School Climate Survey (MSCS) is the first statewide survey to document the experiences of the students who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual transgender, queer, questioning and straight ally (LGBTQ) in Missouri s secondary schools from local efforts. Intended to be conducted biennially, the Missouri School Climate Survey (MSCS) fills a crucial void in our collective understanding of the contemporary high school experience. Many other states use the Center for Disease Control (CDC) Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) to ask questions about sexual orientation, gender expression and gender identity, however in Missouri the YRBS nor the Missouri School Survey (MSS),another survey done in Missouri public schools, does not collect this information. Therefore the results of this survey are intended to serve as a guide for our state legislators, educators, school board, parent, student, school staff and community leader concerned with ensuring safe, effective and quality schools for all students including LGBTQ students. The 2013 MSCS results summarized here begin to track the endemic problems directed at LGBTQ students in Missouri, while offering information about the impact of these experiences on academic performance and the effect of interventions designed to address the underlying problem. The 2013 MSCS paints a disturbing picture of the school environments and experiences for LGBTQ students in Missouri; while providing further insights into solutions for creating safer schools for students.

6 Methodology The Missouri School Climate Survey was available on the internet via the Survey Monkey web address: Persons interested in taking the survey could go online to take the survey. Notices about our on line survey were ed to students, student organizations serving LGBTQ students as well as social justice groups and organizations focused on eliminating racism and sexism. Additionally, social media and networking websites were utilized to engage prospective students. The survey was made up of twelve different sections. In each section the questions pertained to a specific topic, such as specific types of harassment, what type of school the student attends. In order to code the answers, Likert scales were used such as never (1) to always (4) or frequently (5) on either a four or five point scale. Data collection occurred from Aug through May Note that this survey uses the overall responses from all participants unless otherwise noted. Where significant differences exist, they will be highlighted (for example, if LGBTQ students experiences are far different from the overall response findings). The results herein describe our sample. No random sampling was used in the survey. A total of 157 students took the MSCS. Students taking the survey hail from 71.1% came from public, private and Missouri High Schools and 28.9% came from college. Of the respondents answering the question of sexual orientation, 60% identified themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer or questioning (LGBTQ) and 40% identified as straight. Of the straight respondents, 100% of them identified as allies of the LGBT community, no one identified as non allies.

7 Out of 110 respondents answering the question regarding gender, 67.3% identified as female, 28.2% identified as male while 1.8 % of students reported being transgender, 2.7% reported being genderqueer and 2.7% reported other and 47 participates choose to skip this question. The majority reported being heterosexual 40%, while 20.9% reported being gay, 11.8% reported being lesbian, 21.8% reported being bisexual, 12.7% reported that they were questioning and 14.5% identified as queer. Student participating in the survey varied across grade levels; of the high school students 12.9% of the students represented freshman, 16.8% sophomores, 28.7% juniors and 41.6% represented seniors who took part in the survey. The majority of the sample 82.7% reported being White/European American while the other major ethnic groups, American Indian or Alaskan Native, Bi/Multiracial, Asian make up 6.3 and Black or African American make up 5.5% of student participants. Those identifying as Hispanic/Latino represented.9% of student participants and 5.5% responded as other.

8 Key Findings 1) Missouri s LGBTQ students feel unsafe in school and face verbal and physical harassment or assault daily: 42.54% of students in Missouri reported hearing homophobic remarks frequently in their schools. 70.5% of LGBTQ students report being verbally harassed because of their perceived sexual orientation. 41.1% of Missouri LGBTQ students reported some incident of physical harassment (being pushed or shoved) because of their sexual orientation or gender expression 2) Many Missouri students lack in school resources and do not know how to report incidents of verbal/physical harassment or discrimination: 45.1 % of Missouri High School Students said they do not know how to report incidents of discrimination 49.6 % of Missouri High School students said they do not know if their schools has a policy or procedure for reporting incidents of discrimination specifically related to sexual orientation or gender identity? 61.6 % of Missouri Students report not having or not knowing if they have any books or other resources in their schools library that contain information about LGBT culture, history or events? 60.7 % of Missouri students said they did not know any staff person in their school who are open about being Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Transgender. 78.2% of students reported that their school did not have gender neutral restrooms. 3. Hostile school climate experienced by LGBTQ students adversely impacts their achievement levels and increase thoughts of suicide. LGBTQ students were: 21.3 % of LGBTQ students in reported skipping class at least once in part because they did not feel safe going to a particular class 86.8 % of LGBTQ students reported sometimes having feelings of sadness or depression.

9 67.2 % of LGBT students reported having thoughts of committing suicide at least once. 100 % of the Transgender or Gender Nonconforming students surveyed reported having thoughts of committing suicide. 4. Having a GSA or Diversity Clubs working on LGBTQ students in schools impact climate in positive ways. Respondents in schools with GSA or Diversity Clubs working on LGBTQ issues were: 21.1 % less likely to report that homophobic remarks are used frequently in their school % more likely to know a school stuff person that is open about being LGBT % less likely to have ever had thoughts of committing suicide. 5. The acronym LGBTQ and straight does not capture the full range of sexual orientations or gender identities % reported other when asked about their sexual orientation or gender identity. Responses included: Transvestite, Homoflexible, Pansexual, Fluid, Androgynous and Slightly Curious Comparative Results Table 1 presents differences in responses between students who identified themselves as members of the LGBTQ community and those who identified themselves as straight. Options for identifying as LGBT included: lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning. Responses from straight respondents include those from allies of the LGBT community and those from non allies.

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11 Table 2 represents responses from all LGBT and straight identified students and their knowledge on how to report incidents of harassment.

12 Table 3 shows that student s who identify as LGBTQ reported feeling sad or depressed more often than students who identify as straight. Students who thought about committing suicide also reported having little support from school staff.

13 Conclusion: The results of this survey show that while many LGBTQ and straight allied students view school to be a place of opportunity and safety, many also continue to deal with negative school/campus climates and a lack of resources and support. Recommendations: Our results indicate that there is a lot of work to be done in Missouri s High Schools and universities to create safe climates for all students, including LGBTQ students. The following recommendations, if adopted, can help make a major difference across Missouri in providing a safe and supportive college environment for all college students. We must include the questions of sexual orientation and gender identity into larger school surveys in order to insure that all students needs are being met. High Schools, universities the State of Missouri must adopt, meaningfully implement and effectively enforce inclusive anti harassment and anti discrimination policies. Specifically: o Policies that are inclusive of LGBTQ people must be adopted o Implementation includes training on the policies and processes for reporting o Reporting methods must be clear, easy to use and accessible (electronic, etc.) o Students, faculty and staff must understand how to report incidents of harassment and discrimination

14 o Investigators must understand their role in receiving and investigating reports of harassment and discrimination, including those involving sexual orientation and gender identity o An on going information campaign should be created, coordinated amongst student groups and administration, to increase understanding of how to report, with resources for students, faculty/staff and the public Acknowledgements Nisa Rahaman, Kris Gill and Dr. Jason Heisserer, Principal of Hixson Middle School in Webster Groves. Thank you to Missouri s supportive teachers, administrators and specifically advisors of Gay Straight Alliances, who work endlessly to ensure the safety and affirmation of all students. And, finally, to Missouri s students, especially those that are LGBT and straight allied, who took this survey to help us better understand what it is like to be LGBTQ and allied in Missouri s schools.

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