LGBTQ Youth: We Have (Some Of) the Data – What Can We Do About It?

LGBTQ Youth Statistics

Last week, the CDC released its first-ever nationwide study inclusive of lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth in grades 9-12 and their health and safety-related experiences.  While it took us far too long to get data on this vulnerable population, we finally have a clearer picture of the realities our youth are facing in those formative years:

  • LGB students are up to 3x more likely experience physical/sexual violence than straight youth
  • The prevalence of not having gone to school because of safety concerns was higher among LGB students (12.5%) and questioning students (10.8%) than heterosexual students (4.6%)
  • Of LGB students in grades 9-12, 43% seriously considered suicide – rates that are likely even higher for trans and gender expansive students
  • Nearly 30% of LGB students attempted suicide

These findings are distressing.  Sexual minority (LGB) students have a higher prevalence of many health-risk behaviors compared with nonsexual minority students – almost entirely across the board.  We don’t have to ask why – we see reminders of anti-LGBTQ rhetoric from national leaders and expressions of unimaginable hatred and violence against LGBTQ people frequently in America.

However, finally having access to this data provides us with a moment to consider how we move forward.  Data helps us to better understand LGB youth’s real-life experiences and if we’re smart, it informs how we take action to make sure no young person experiences this kind of violence or treatment when accessing their right to an education.

What if 90% of your colleagues felt they had an increased ability to manage students who used derogatory language (“fag,” “gay,” etc.)? What if 90% of your colleagues felt more prepared to connect a harassed student to support services?

 What We Are Doing About It

Organizations like GSA Network and GLSEN exist to change school climates for LGBTQ youth.  Crisis intervention services like the Trans Lifeline and The Trevor Project aim to be there for LGBTQ youth when they feel they have no one to support them.  And programs like Kognito’s  Step In, Speak Up!, which helps educators and school staff practice supporting their LGBTQ students, exist to combat the outcomes discovered in the CDC’s survey.  With thousands of users ranging in areas from New York City to Shelby County, TN – from Wausau School District in Wisconsin to Fairfax County, VA – Step In, Speak Up! has prepared faculty/staff to better support their LGBTQ students.


A virtual educator leads a lecture in Step In, Speak Up!

How do we know? We have the data.

In our analysis of 1,390 Step In, Speak Up! participants in 45 schools across 5 states, we found some significant evidence that educators, administrators and school staff had moved from awareness of the problem into action:

  • 58% of users had more conversations with colleagues about students they were concerned about
  • 78% had more conversations with colleagues about how to better support LGBTQ students
  • 64% had more conversations with colleagues about the use of discriminatory language in classrooms

They also changed their behavior in the classroom:

  • 53% intervened with students who revealed that they were LGBTQ and being teased, harassed or bullied
  • 51% connected a student to support services because they were being teased, harassed or bullied
  • 54% talked with a teased, harassed or bullied student after class to see if they were OK
  • 59% talked with a student after class because of their use of discriminatory language against a LGBTQ student.

The CDC’s survey estimates there are around 1.3 million young people who identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual.  Those are 1.3 million young people who deserve to navigate adolescence with as much safety and support as their straight and/or cisgender peers.  These students need adults who can engage them in conversations about their needs and who are prepared to respond to them.  Step In, Speak Up! does just that: 90% of users increased their ability to discuss concerns with students being teased, harassed or bullied.


An educator practices supporting a bullied student in Step In, Speak Up!

These interventions and symbols of support matter.  Studies show that when an LGBTQ student can identify at least one supportive adult in their environment, their risk for suicide can decrease by 30% and our users are stepping up to be that adult.

We could not be more proud that our simulations continue to have such an impact not only in the lives of those who experience them, but the students they work with. We will continue to engage our learners in this journey until the data tells us we no longer need to.

To find out more about Step In, Speak Up!, including accessing our research, demos and pricing information, click here.

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