Why Anti-bullying Laws Protecting LGBT Students Are Needed

No one can debate that bullying leads to serious mental and physical health risks and LGBT youth are at the greatest risk.  They are more likely to suffer from depression, anxiety, and suicide attempts than their heterosexual peers.  Nearly one out of five LGBT youth also report that they have been physically assaulted on school campuses.  This lack of a safe environment at school leads youth like Ricky from C.J. Pascoe’s Dude You’re a Fag to drop out of school because of the harassment he underwent at River High.  A 2011 study by Mark L. Hatzenbuehlr shows that legislation protecting LGBT teens is a crucial step to reducing the health risk of anti-LGBT bullying.

Despite these statistics, only fourteen states protect LGBT students from bullying and no federal law currently exists.  Some states even have statutes or policies that school staff must “remain neutral on matters regarding sexual orientation” (“The Public Health Program of Anti-LGBT Bullying”).  Even when these are not in place, students don’t report bullying out of fear of the staff that they have heard make homophobic comments.

The 113th Congress has a chance to change this.  Two bills that deal with LGBT bullying at school are expected to be reintroduced.  Both of these bills would amend existing laws that already protect students against bullying and discrimination to include sexual orientation and gender identification.

Anthropologists can help stop these bills from failing again by raising awareness about the difficulties that LGBT students face and show that these laws can save their lives.  They can also work with school administrations to come up with other ways to help stop the bullying that LGBT youth face.

Sources: “The Public Health Problem of Anti-LGBT Bullying” – Jason Silverstein

Dude You’re a Fag by C.J. Pascoe

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