A new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveals disturbing statistics about the struggles LGB youth face in high school. This is the first time the government agency has studied the topic.
The CDC says there are about 1.3 million LGB students across the country, and they're being bullied and harassed more than their heterosexual peers. In fact, statistics show LGBT students are more than three times more likely to have ever been physically forced to have sex.
“What we have learned from conversations with LGBT school age youth is that some of them are still very reluctant to come out,” said Bill Falce, Vice-President of Florida Youth Pride Coalition. “They are fearful in part because the risk of potential violence is real to them. They see it on TV and hear about the violence and hate towards LGBT people on a regular basis.”
The CDC report found more than 40 percent of LGBT students have seriously considered suicide. Sixty percent reported feeling so sad or hopeless they lost interest in normal activities. LGBT students are also up to 5 times more likely to use illegal drugs. And 1 in 10 say they skipped school due to concerns for their safety.
“Schools need to implement zero tolerance bullying policies, implement policies that encourage respect for all students, form gay straight alliance groups (GSA) where students feel safe to express themselves, and provide safe zones where students can go to meet and discuss concerns with appropriate, trained school staff,” Falce said. “It's also important that school officials work with LGBT community leaders. It's important that parents are involved in these discussions. We hear from many youth who are afraid of one or both of their parents because they are so homophobic. Trained professionals need to be consulted and be part of the school team that insures a safe learning environment for these youth.”
The report, in CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), highlights while physical and sexual violence and bullying are serious health dangers on their own, a combination of complex factors can place young people at high risk for suicide, depression, addiction, poor academic performance, and other severe consequences.
“Florida Youth Pride receives emails from youth from across the state of Florida reaching out for help,” Falce said. “The majority of the emails talk of homophobic parents, bullying, drug addiction, homelessness, and suicide.”
The main mission of Florida Youth Pride is to empower, support, promote and engage youth in educational, civic and cultural activities. The organization works to enrich the lives of LGBT young people.
“We have a safe space in Fort Lauderdale where we meet with local youth and work with them to solve the problem,” Falce said. “When youth from a distant place contact us asking for help, we research the resources in that area and contact professionals to coordinate a connection and get immediate help for them.
Research suggests that comprehensive, community-wide prevention efforts can reduce the risk of multiple types of violence for these and other vulnerable youth. Studies suggest that parents may also play a role in fostering resiliency by providing strong family support and teaching all adolescents non-violent problem-solving skills.
“There are many youth in need of help and it will take the efforts of parents, school officials, religious leaders, government officials, health officials, the various non-profits dedicated to different needs such as homelessness, suicide, etc., and the LGBT community to seriously address this issue,” Falce said.