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Advocates: At-Risk LGBTQ Youth Need Protection from Bullying

Studies show LGBTQ students are twice as likely as heterosexual students to be bullied, both electronically and in person. (Pixaby/Wokandapix)
Studies show LGBTQ students are twice as likely as heterosexual students to be bullied, both electronically and in person. (Pixaby/Wokandapix)
June 19, 2018

ST. PAUL, Minn. – A new survey shows high rates of depression and anxiety among LGBTQ teens nationwide. Advocates say lawmakers could do more to ensure kids aren't bullied based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.

The Human Rights Campaign surveyed 12,000 kids age 13-to-17 who identify as LGBTQ.

Ellen Kahn, the director of Children, Youth and Families Program for the Human Rights Campaign, says more than 70 percent of teens surveyed reported feelings of worthlessness or hopelessness, and the majority had experienced verbal threats.

"These mental-health challenges are directly a result of what's happening to these kids by people around them, being harassed, being treated poorly, being stigmatized, facing discrimination," she says. "That has a cumulative effect."

Earlier this spring the Minneapolis Public Schools instituted a new policy that allows students to indicate their favored name and gender identification preference. The school district said the new initiative is aimed at improving inclusiveness under the district's Out-4-Good program.

Kahn says if lawmakers want to protect students, they should enact policies that specifically address anti-LGBTQ bullying, and establish guidelines for inclusivity training for teachers and school staff.

Minnesota is among a group of 19 states and the District of Columbia that has enacted laws to protect students from bullying based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

"That significantly decreases anti-LGBTQ bullying, it improves the experience of students who are more likely to hear positive statements about who they are, so school culture is a huge factor," she adds.

Kahn says many LGBTQ teens report that they are comfortable coming out to their peers. But, she says more support from educators, policymakers and other adults could pave the way to improving students' emotional well-being.

Roz Brown, Public News Service - MN