Despite the apparent progress being made elsewhere in the fight for LGBTQ rights, gay, lesbian, and bisexual high school students in America continue to be bullied at alarming rates, according to a new study by the Centers for Disease Control.
The CDC analyzed data from a 2015 national survey conducted among more than 15,000 students in grades 9–12, plus data from 25 state surveys and 19 large urban school district surveys. More than a third (34%) of students identifying as lesbian, gay or bisexual reported being bullied at school, compared with just 19% of heterosexual students; and 28% reported having been bullied online, compared with just 14% of heterosexual students.
The bullying contributed to some alarming health and wellness statistics among the LGB students:
- More than 40% of lesbian, gay, and bisexual students said they'd seriously considered suicide, and 29% reported having attempted suicide during the past 12 months. 4.1% of all students; 3.7% of heterosexual students; 6.2% of gay, lesbian, and bisexual students; and 7.1% of "not sure" students had carried a weapon (e.g., gun, knife, or club) on school property on at least 1 day during the 30 days before the survey.
- Sixty percent of LGB students reported having been so sad or hopeless they stopped doing some of their usual activities.
- LGB students were up to five times more likely than other students to report using illegal drugs.
- More than 1 in 10 LGB students reported missing school during the past 30 days due to safety concerns. (While not a direct measure of school performance, absenteeism has been linked to low graduation rates, which can have lifelong consequences.)
“Nations are judged by the health and well-being of their children,” said Dr. Mermin, director of the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention at the CDC, told the New York Times in response to the new findings. “Many would find these levels of physical and sexual violence unacceptable and something we should act on quickly.”
The CDC's survey was the first to ask how students identified themselves sexually, and also the sex of those with whom they had “sexual contact”—something the study left students to define. It did not ask whether students identified as transgender, gender-fluid, or any other kind of non-binary identity.
While the CDC says that the majority of lesbian, gay, and bisexual students cope with the transition from childhood through adolescence to adulthood successfully and become healthy and productive adults, it recommends much more comprehensive intervention on the part of schools and communities to address the suffering other LGB students experience. This includes proactively creating safe and supportive spaces for these students, making access to evidence-based interventions for health-risk behaviors among LGB students easier, and more training of adults to work with LGB students to better understand their needs.
Rob covers business, economics and the environment for Fusion. He previously worked at Business Insider. He grew up in Chicago.