In 1999, GLSEN identified the need for national data on the experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students and launched the first National School Climate Survey (NSCS). At the time, the school experiences of LGBT youth were under-documented and nearly absent from national studies of adolescents.
For more than a decade, the biennial NSCS has documented the unique challenges LGBT students face and identified interventions that can improve school climate. The survey explores the prevalence of anti-LGBT language and victimization, the effect that these experiences have on LGBT students' achievement and well-being, and the utility of interventions in lessening the negative effects of a hostile school climate and promoting a positive educational experience. The survey also examines demographic and community-level differences in LGBT students' experiences.
The NSCS remains one of the few studies to examine the school experiences of LGBT students nationally, and its results have been vital to GLSEN's understanding of the issues that LGBT students face, thereby informing our ongoing work to ensure safe and affirming schools for all.
In our 2011 survey, we examine the experiences of LGBT students with regard to indicators of negative school climate:
- hearing biased remarks, including homophobic remarks, in school;
- feeling unsafe in school because of personal characteristics, such as sexual orientation, gender expression, or race/ethnicity;
- missing classes or days of school because of safety reasons; and
- experiencing harassment and assault in school.
We also examine:
- the possible negative effects of a hostile school climate on LGBT students' academic achievement, educational aspirations, and psychological well-being;
- whether or not students report experiences of victimization to school officials or to family members and how these adults address the problem; and
- how the school experiences of LGBT students differ by personal and community characteristics.
In addition, we demonstrate the degree to which LGBT students have access to supportive resources in school, and we explore the possible benefits of these resources, including:
- Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs) or similar clubs;
- anti-bullying/harassment school policies and laws;
- supportive school staff; and
- curricula that are inclusive of LGBT-related topics.
Given that GLSEN has more than a decade of data, we examine changes over the time on indicators of negative school climate and levels of access to LGBT-related resources in schools.