For the First Time in Years, Progress Toward LGBTQ Inclusion in Schools Has Actually Slowed Down

GLSEN's 2017 National School Climate Survey saw fewer positive changes in American schools than 2015's report.

According to GLSEN’s 2017 National School Climate Survey, progress toward more LGBTQ-inclusive schools has actually stalled for the first time in years.

The survey, part of GLSEN’s regular efforts to determine the efficacy of GSAs and other resources for LGBTQ youth in American schools, polled some 23,000 students nationwide ages 13–21. Four in every 10 students surveyed identified as gay or lesbian, and the average participant was 15.6 years old. LGBTQ participants were asked about their experiences with discrimination, harassment, and victimization, and how these negative encounters were reflected in their school attendance, academic performance, and everyday lives.

Across the board, about 60% of queer students surveyed reported experiencing some type of anti-LGBTQ discrimination at school. While that percentage has actually decreased since GLSEN’s 2013 National School Climate Survey, it appears to have leveled off after “years of measured improvement,” remaining the same since the most recent report from 2015.

Some seven in 10 LGBQ students (70.1%) said they experienced verbal harassment at school because of their sexual orientation. GLSEN also found a “steady increase” in negative remarks made about transgender people at school from 2013–2017—and a similar upward trend in school staff making negative comments about gender expression over the same four-year period. (By and large, binary trans students reported a greater incidence of hostile school experiences than cis LGBQ students, genderqueer students, and non-binary students.)


Among LGBTQ participants, those who identified as gay or lesbian were the most likely to be out at school. Of all cisgender LGBQ students, those who identified as pansexual reported the highest rates of victimization, school discipline, and missing class for safety reasons because of their sexual orientation. When factoring race into the equation, black or African-American LGBTQ participants reported the highest numbers of out-of-school suspension or expulsion than students from any other racial group.

The report did note some hopeful figures, though: Last year’s survey recorded higher numbers of GSAs in schools nationwide than in 2013 or 2015. GLSEN says groups like GSAs are vital resources for vulnerable LGBTQ youth and encourages schools around the country to support these organizations.

“This report should serve as an alarm bell for advocates and a call to action for anyone who cares about students’ wellbeing,” said Eliza Byard, executive director of GLSEN, in a statement. “Fortunately, the evidence continues to show that key interventions are working to improve students’ lives. We must continue to push to see them implemented in more schools, and support students who are organizing to improve their communities.”

Visit GLSEN’s website to read the full report.

Brooklyn-based writer and editor. Probably drinking iced coffee or getting tattooed.