In January, the Central Coast Coalition for Inclusive Schools (CCC4IS), a network of Cal Poly and community partners supporting safe and affirming school communities, released a fact sheet that highlights the challenges faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth in local schools. Three new California laws — Seth’s Law (2011), The FAIR Education Act (2011) and the School Success and Opportunity Act (2014) — are designed to help all youth feel safer and more included at school with specific protections and attention to LGBT youth. Yet the data collected in San Luis Obispo County in spring 2014 and analyzed by coalition co-chair Professor Elizabeth Meyer document ongoing challenges for LGBT youth.
The California Healthy Kids Survey focuses on the behaviors of students in seventh, ninth and 11th grades and asks a variety of questions about attendance; bullying; tobacco, drug and alcohol use; and other health-related behaviors. In 2014, this survey included two new questions regarding students’ sexual orientation and gender identity. These new questions allowed comparisons between students who identify as gay, lesbian and bisexual and their heterosexual peers, as well as comparisons between students who identify as transgender and their cisgender (non-trans identified) peers. In San Luis Obispo County, over 6,500 students responded to the survey, and their experiences reflect trends found in earlier studies.
Attendance: Transgender youth skip school because they feel unsafe at a rate 12 times higher than their cisgender peers (23.2% vs. 1.9%), and LGB youth skip school at a rate 6 times higher (12.3% vs. 1.8%) than their heterosexual peers.
Safety: LGB youth (21%) and transgender youth (39%) are much more likely to report that they feel unsafe or very unsafe at school compared to their peers (6.2%).
Bullying and harassment: LGB youth (33.8% vs. 11.5% heterosexual) and transgender youth (34% vs. 3.1% cisgender) are 3-10 times more likely to have been threated with harm or injury than their peers.
Suicide: Half of LGB youth have seriously considered attempting suicide (50.3% LGB vs. 17.6% heterosexual) as have 41.5% of transgender youth (vs. 19.2% cisgender).
Although California has been a leader in passing laws to protect LGBT youth in schools, the implementation of these laws has been slow. In a report released by the state in August 2013, the state auditor noted significant problems in the bullying policies of many school districts in the state. In April 2014, Meyer conducted a study for the American Educational Research Association and the County Office of Education on the 10 school districts in San Luis Obispo County. The findings in her report show that none of them had fully implemented the changes required by Seth’s Law and most had never heard of the FAIR Education Act.
Other ongoing projects of CC4IS include youth leadership development opportunities, advocacy and support for families, and educational opportunities on relevant topics for educators and community members. For more information, visit the group's Facebook page.
Click here to download a PDF of the data.