Report exposes exclusion and prejudice faced by gay parents

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The first comprehensive study into lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) families’ experiences in education in America has found that they are more conscientious than straight parents but suffer high levels of discrimination.

The report by GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, in partnership with the Family Equality Council and COLAGE, has found that LGBT parents are more involved in school activities and more likely to report consistent communication with school personnel.

Current estimates indicate there are more than seven million LGBT parents with school-age children in the United States.

Involved, Invisible, Ignored: The Experiences of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Parents and Their Children in Our Nation’s K-12 Schools examines and highlights the school experiences of LGBT-headed families using results from surveys of LGBT parents of children in K-12 schools and of secondary students who have LGBT parents.

53% of parents described various forms of exclusion from their school communities: being excluded or prevented from fully participating in school activities and events, being excluded by school policies and procedures, and being ignored and feeling invisible.

The report found that LGBT parents are more likely to be involved in their children’s education than the general parent population.

Compared to data from the National Centre for Education Statistics (NCES), LGBT parents are more likely to attend a parent-teacher conference in the past year (94% to 77%) and more likely to volunteer (67% to 42%).

26% of LGBT parents in the survey reported mistreatment from other parents and 21% reported hearing negative comments about being LGBT from students.

42% of students said they had been verbally harassed at school in the past year because their parents were LGBT.

Over a third (37%) of students reported that they had been verbally harassed because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation and nearly a third had experienced verbal harassment because of the way in which they expressed their gender (32%).

22% of students said that a teacher, principal or other school staff person had discouraged them from talking about their family at school, and more than a third (36%) had felt that school personnel did not acknowledge their LGBT family (e.g., not permitting one parent to sign a student’s form because s/he was not the legal parent/guardian).

Furthermore, 28% said they heard teachers or other school staff make negative comments about LGBT families.

“Family and education are two of the most important aspects of children’s lives,” said GLSEN Executive Director Kevin Jennings.

“This report casts doubt on schools’ inclusion of different kinds of families in our education system.

“LGBT parents are actively engaged in their children’s education, yet are often not accepted by school communities.

“Further, their children are often harassed in school simply because of the makeup of their families.

“All families in a school community should be valued and respected as equals.”

“Students with lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or transgender parents face isolation, invisibility and alienation due to harassment, name-calling and bullying in their schools,” said COLAGE Executive Director Beth Teper, who has a lesbian mother.

“On behalf of the millions of people who have one or more LGBT parents, COLAGE urges students, schools and communities to learn about this important issue as the first step in building safe school environments for all.

“We also applaud youth with LGBT parents who act as educators and leaders every day when they navigate often unwelcoming schools.”