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ND Report Illustrates School-Related Issues for LGBTQ Youth

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Wednesday, November 24, 2021   

FARGO, N.D. -- A new report details how North Dakota students who identify as LGBTQ+ often struggle with the environment within their schools, and advocates said the findings demonstrate the importance of doing more to protect the children and make them feel welcome.

Through the Community Uplift Program, the North Dakota LGBTQ+ School Climate Report showed nearly 60% of LGBTQ+ students say they've been bullied on school grounds.

But only 13% of responding districts require staff training on LGBTQ+ culture.

Barry Nelson, interim director of the North Dakota Human Rights Coalition, feels the approach is too broad in addressing harassing behavior.

"It's fine to talk about it in generalities, but we know that it is particularly poignant within the LGBTQ population in the school," Nelson asserted.

The report's author noted only one in six young people who identify as queer will turn to an adult when feeling empty, sad, hopeless or angry. A lack of meaningful infrastructure can prompt other issues, from missing school to experiencing homelessness, and even suicide.

The report said districts have many resources available, including guidelines from the North Dakota School Board Association.

The report said 61% of LGBTQ+ youth in North Dakota have seriously considered suicide.

Samantha Christopherson, area director of the North Dakota Chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, said it is a reminder for educators and parents to not delay in responding to warning signs.

"Talk, behavior and mood," Christopherson outlined. "If you notice any changes in your loved one, in a student, it's time to have a conversation."

The report also suggested comprehensive anti-bullying policies can reduce rates of harassment by 10%. Nelson added anyone in the community reaching out and lending a welcoming voice can be helpful.

"That I, as an individual, can be a very important part of literally, again, saving a young person's life by becoming a positive influence in their life," Nelson remarked.

Disclosure: North Dakota Human Rights Coalition contributes to our fund for reporting on Civil Rights, Human Rights/Racial Justice, LGBTQIA Issues, and Women's Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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