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Study: Half of principals deem bullying a "serious problem"
Study: Half of principals deem bullying a "serious problem"
A new study of public school principals released today by GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, in collaboration with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) finds that half of principals view bullying as a serious problem at their schools, yet they appear to underestimate the extent of harassment that Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) students experience.

The study, The Principal's Perspective: School Safety, Bullying and Harassment, conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of GLSEN, surveyed 1,580 K-12 public school principals between June 15 and August 3, 2007.

While a majority of secondary school principals report that students at their schools have been harassed because of their gender expression (how masculine or feminine they are) (95%) or because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation (92%), few principals believe this to be a frequent (very often/often) occurrence (12% and 9%, respectively). However, previous GLSEN studies of both students and teachers have shown that LGBT-identified students and those perceived to be LGBT are harassed at much higher rates than their non-LGBT peers. GLSEN's From Teasing to Torment: School Climate in America reports that 90% of LGBT teens have been harassed or assaulted in the past year vs. 62% of non-LGBT teens.

"As we have seen in past reports from teachers and students, anti-LGBT bullying in schools is commonplace," said GLSEN Executive Director Kevin Jennings. "This report illustrates that school leaders must show a commitment to all students to truly make their schools safe for everyone. As principals are critical players in ensuring safe learning environment for all students, it is imperative that they understand the hostile climate oftentimes faced by LGBT students."

Principals also report that while nearly all (96%) of their schools have anti-bullying policies, less than half specifically mention sexual orientation (46%) or gender identity or expression (39%). Yet GLSEN's 2005 National School Climate Survey shows that the best policy to protect LGBT students from bullying and harassment is one that specifically mentions these categories.

Additionally, principals indicate that there is a need for professional development for teachers and staff in order to reduce bullying of LGBT students. Three in 10 principals (29%) rate their teachers and staff as fair or poor at being able to effectively deal with a student being bullied or harassed because they are or are perceived to be Lesbian, Gay or Bisexual. Furthermore, only 4% of principals report that their school or district provided professional development for their staff on LGBT issues during the past year.

"This study indicates that school leaders are concerned about the welfare of their students; yet safety issues related to sexual orientation and gender expression don't seem to rise to the same level of urgency," said NASSP Executive Director Dr. Gerald N. Tirozzi. "We know from the research field that safety issues greatly affect student academic performance. These findings, therefore, suggest a deliberate course of action for school leaders who want to establish and maintain safe school environments where teaching and learning can take place: education and open discussions with teachers and students, protection of students who are victimized for whatever reason, including their sexual identity, and school-based professional development around these issues."

Courtesy of GLSEN

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