For more than 20 years, GLSEN has worked to make schools safer for all students; it has sought specifically to reduce the bullying and harassment targeted at students' sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression. For lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students across the country, violence and harassment experienced in school affect their ability to learn. Although schools in urban areas are typically regarded as more violent or dangerous than schools in other areas, findings from our National School Climate
Surveys consistently show that it is most often rural schools that may pose the greatest threats for LGBT students. It may be that community characteristics, such as religious and cultural traditions, income, and educational levels, influence individual beliefs and attitudes toward LGBT people in these areas. It may also be that a lack of positive LGBT-related school resources negatively affects LGBT students' school engagement and academic performance, particularly if they also experience bullying and harassment. Although research on the educational experiences of LGBT youth has grown considerably over the past 25 years, less is known about rural students specifically.
This research report examines the experiences of LGBT students in small town and rural areas on matters related to biased language in schools, school safety, harassment and victimization, educational outcomes, school engagement, and LGBT-related resources and support. It also examines the prevalence and utility of LGBT-related resources in rural schools. Finally, this report concludes by advocating for more intentional policies, measures, and programs that protect LGBT students.