They Don't Even Know Me

Fri, 8 Jan 1999 11:57:42 -0500

The other day, Darcy Lees, NCSEE part-chair, sent me a message about a new
report published on the Internet about the treatment of
gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgendered students in Washington state. I
visited the report this morning, and recommend you do so also. With this
report, Washington State has set a standard for what we should be doing in
all states - collecting and analyzing data about this important issue in
our schools. To encourage you to explore the entire report and to help
those who do not yet use the Internet as a resource, you will find the
Executive Summary below.

THEY DON'T EVEN KNOW ME: Understanding Anti-Gay Harassment and Violence in
Schools, A Report on the Five Year Anti-Violence Research Project Of the
Safe Schools Coalition of Washington State, January 1999

Executive Summary

The Safe Schools Coalition is a public-private partnership of seventy-four
offices, agencies and organizations as well as many individuals. Its
mission is to help make Washington State schools safe
places where every family can belong, where every educator can teach, and
where every child can learn, regardless of gender identity or sexual

The Safe Schools Project (one activity of the Coalition) was a five-year,
statewide qualitative study examining the phenomenon of anti-gay
harassment and violence in schools, kindergarten through grade
twelve. All the incidents and patterns of harassment described in this
report occurred at school or partly on school property, or on the way to
or from school, or at a school-sponsored event, such as a field
trip or a basketball game. In five school years, one hundred forty six
incidents have been reported to the Project. One hundred and eleven met
the Project's criteria as examples of Washington State, school-based
anti-gay harassment and violence. [1]

The hundred and eleven incidents we analyzed came from:

- at least 73 schools, including seven elementary schools, fifteen junior
high and middle schools,forty high schools, and eleven other schools
(alternative schools, a reservation school, a private school).

- at least 37 public school districts (urban, suburban, small town and

- 13 counties.

The incidents included:

- eleven in which no specific individual was targeted (e.g., anti-gay
slurs, sometimes expressed by teachers).

- one hundred others, in which a total of 148 individuals were
harassed or attacked, including:
        eight incidents in which all of the targeted people were adults.

        ninety-two incidents in which students were harassed or attacked
        in seven cases, by adults. (In eighteen other cases, adults were
        not the offenders per se, but they did something that actively
        contributed to a student's feeling harmed. For example, one
        principal made a young lesbian start changing for PE by herself,
        away from the locker room, after her classmates began verbally
        harassing her.)

Adults responded in various ways to these ninety-two incidents in which
students were targeted:

          1. In one-third of incidents, adults did nothing. In ten of
these cases, at least one adult wassupportive, but none took protective
action. In the other cases the adults were silent or blaming.

          2. In one-third of incidents, at least one adult stood up for a
child (even if others were not supportive). These adults included parents
and guardians; teachers, counselors, school secretaries, principals and
vice principals; district-level administrators; staff people from
community agencies; school security guards, police officers, a
school bus driver and a referee. Some of their stories offer creative
strategies as models for others.

          3. In one-third of incidents there were no adult witnesses and
the problem was never reported to school employees or adults' responses
are unknown. Some of these were never called to adults' attention because
students feared thei responses. In some cases previous requests for help
had been allegedly denied or disparaged.

By category of offense, the one-hundred and eleven incidents counted by
the Project have included:

          Eight gang rape incidents in which a total of 11 people were
raped. Two of those who were raped were sixth graders. Theirs was the only
rape incident that a respondent said had been reported to the police. This
respondent did not say whether the offenders were charged or convicted.

          Twenty-two other physical assaults on a total of 24 people. They
were hit, kicked, punched, and/or injured with weapons. Seven were treated
by a doctor or a nurse (four in hospitals and emergency rooms) for cuts,
contusions, cracked ribs and/or broken bones.

          Seventeen cases of physical harassment and/or sexual assault,
short of rape. These included such things as offenders spitting on
someone, throwing something at them, cornering them, pushing them around,
pulling their clothes up or off or down, or grabbing or groping them.

          Thirty-eight cases of on-going verbal and other harassment. In
these cases, an offender wrote graffiti about a person, for example, or
"outed" them (spread rumors about their sexual orientation), threatened to
harm or kill them, or publicly humiliated them on an on-going basis.

          Twenty-six one-time, climate setting incidents. These entailed
things such as name-calling, offensive jokes, etc. In one incident, a
first grader was called "faggot" on the playground. Perplexed and
embarrassed, he later asked his father what it meant. The father explained
it was a derogatory term for gay people. His child wasn't traumatized by
the incident, but the father was troubled enough to call the Safe Schools

The ratio of offenders to the people they targeted was at least
2 against 1.

What made the offenders think the 148 people they targeted in these 111
incidents were gay or lesbian? From reports, we know that:

38 people had defended the civil rights of sexual minorities or
had GLBT friends.

34 people were openly gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender

31 people were apparently perceived to fit GLBT stereotypes
(e.g., girls with short hair, a boy who was soft-spoken and who studied
during free time).

23 people were attacked for no apparent reason. Some callers did
not say or did not know why the offenders had attacked these particular
individuals. Other were not sure the offenders had even believed their
targets to be gay; they may have simply been using an anti-gay slur in a
teasing or an angry way.

15 people had come out privately (e.g., to a friend or sibling)
as a sexual minority and their confidentiality was broken.

5 people were "found out" (e.g., their diary was stolen or their
locker broken into).

2 people were attacked as gay because they had HIV.

At least seven of those who were targeted were self-identified
as heterosexual.

Twelve children and youth changed schools (in some cases, multiple times)
to try to escape the abuse. Ten young people eventually dropped out
(including three who had changed schools first).

Ten young people attempted suicide. Two young people committed suicide.
(One suicide was reported by a young man's mother and the other, which
followed suicide attempts, was reported by a close friend.)

The entire report is available at

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