National Coming Out Day Report: LGBTQ Youth in California Report More Negative School Experiences Than Non-LGBTQ Youth

For Immediate Release
October 5, 2017

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Rachel Dowd
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National Coming Out Day Report: LGBTQ Youth in California Report More Negative School Experiences Than Non-LGBTQ Youth

LOS ANGELES – LGBTQ youth in California reported less connection with school, poorer academic outcomes and more frequent victimization than their non-LGBTQ peers, according to a new report by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law.

The report, titled LGBTQ Youth in California’s Public Schools: Differences across the State, explored disparities in school experiences, school performance and well-being of LGBTQ and non-LGBTQ youth in California, as well as disparities between LGBTQ youth in rural and urban areas in the state.

Using data from the 2013-2015 California Student Survey and California Healthy Kids Survey, the report found that despite state laws protecting LGBTQ youth from bullying and discrimination at schools, LGBTQ youth in California a more negative school environment than non-LGBTQ youth. The report also found that LGBTQ youth in rural areas of California reported a more negative school environment and feeling less safe at school compared to LGBTQ youth in urban areas of California.

“Even in a state as supportive as California, where you live and go to school can make a significant difference in how successful and safe you feel at school,” said Bianca D.M. Wilson, Senior Scholar of Public Policy at the Williams Institute, UCLA School of Law. “Policies and laws are an essential start, but they’re not enough. Establishing a culture of acceptance is critical to support individual lives.”

Key findings from the report include:

  • An estimated 10.3% of California’s students in public middle and high schools identified as LGBTQ. Students in rural areas were about as likely to identify as LGBTQ (10.0%) as students in urban areas (10.5%).
  • Throughout California, LGBTQ youth reported experiencing a more negative school environment than non-LGBTQ youth. For example, LGBTQ youth reported that they felt less connected with their schools, had fewer caring relationships with teachers or adults at school, had fewer opportunities to participate in meaningful activities at school and had lower expectations from adults at school. LGBTQ youth in rural areas were more likely to report these negative feelings and experiences than LGBTQ youth in urban areas.
  • Throughout California, LGBTQ youth also reported experiencing victimization more frequently than non-LGBTQ youth. LGBTQ youth in the state reported more frequent verbal and physical harassment at school and were more likely to report feeling unsafe at school than non-LGBTQ youth.  LGBTQ youth in rural areas reported feeling less safe than LGBTQ youth in urban areas, but did not differ from urban youth in how frequently they experienced victimization.
  • In terms of academic performance, LGBTQ youth in California reported having lower grades and more school absences than non-LGBTQ youth in the year prior to the survey. There were no significant differences in school performance between rural and urban LGBTQ youth.
  • LGBTQ youth reported more frequent substance use than non-LGBTQ youth. LGBTQ youth reported more frequent use of cigarettes, alcohol and marijuana in the 30 days prior to the survey than non-LGBTQ youth.  LGBTQ youth in rural areas reported a higher level of cigarette use over their lifetimes, but did not report using alcohol or marijuana more frequently than LGBTQ youth in urban areas.

This report includes an addendum that compares school experiences and well-being of LGBTQ youth to that of non-LGBTQ youth in six regions: Bay Area, Central/Southern Farm, Central Valley, Los Angeles County, North and Mountain, and Southern California (without Los Angeles).  The regional analyses show similar patterns of disparities between LGBTQ and non-LGBTQ youth in the state.

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The Williams Institute, a think tank on sexual orientation and gender identity law and public policy, is dedicated to conducting rigorous, independent research with real-world relevance.

 

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