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Volume 17, Number 5
September/October 2001

Sexual Minority Students Benefit from School-Based Support—Where It Exists


Six people surrounded the young man and threw a lasso around his neck. They threatened to drag him from the back of a truck, but the victim managed to escape from his tormentors. He immediately reported the incident to the authorities, expecting them to seek out and punish the attackers. Instead, they accused him of provoking the attack by telling others too much about his identity.

This story of physical assault, institutional indifference, and the limits of free speech may sound like fiction, or the kind of incident that takes place somewhere known for human rights abuses and government-sanctioned violence. In fact, it is drawn from a report released in May by Human Rights Watch (HRW), an organization that monitors human rights violations all over the world. But the attack took place in the parking lot of a Nevada high school, the authorities were public school administrators, and the victim, called Dylan N. in the report, was targeted because he is gay.

According to HRW, Dylan’s problems at school escalated after he appeared on a local cable TV show about the challenges faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) high school students. Taunts such as “fag,” “homo,” and “queer” became part of the daily routine, Dylan says. Then the attacks became more physical: students spit at him and threw food at him in the cafeteria. Next came the incident in the parking lot. Dylan reported it to a vice principal, but she never disciplined the offenders, he says. After several other such incidents, district officials transferred him to a school for students with academic and emotional problems. He reports that the principal there told him “he wouldn’t have me acting like a faggot at school.” He eventually ended up in an adult education program, unable to get a high school diploma.

This is an excerpt from the Harvard Education Letter. Subscribers can click here to continue reading this article.


For Further Information

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender People and Education, Harvard Educational Review Special Issue, Volume 66, no. 2 (Summer 1996).

S.M. Blake, R. Ledsky, T. Lehman, C. Goodenow, R. Sawyer, and T. Hack. “Preventing Sexual Risk Behaviors Among Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Adolescents: The Benefits of Gay-Sensitive HIV Instruction in Schools.” American Journal of Public Health 91, no. 6 (June 2001): 940–946.

M. Bochenek and A.W. Brown. Hatred in the Hallways: Violence and Discrimination Against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Students in U.S. Schools. New York: Human Rights Watch, 2001.

D.S. Buckel. “Legal Perspective on Ensuring a Safe and Nondiscriminatory School Environment for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgendered Students.” Education and Urban Society 32, no. 3 (May 2000): 390–398.

Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN).

GLSEN. 1999 National School Climate Survey.

A. Lipkin. Understanding Homosexuality, Changing Schools: A Text for Teachers, Counselors, and Administrators. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1999.

Massachusetts Department of Education. 1999 Massachusetts Youth Risk Behavior Survey. Boston: Massachusetts Department of Education, 2000.

B. Reis. They Don’t Even Know Me! Understanding Anti-Gay Harassment and Violence in Schools. Seattle: Safe Schools Coalition of Washington, 1999.

B. Reis and E. Saewyc. Eighty-Three Thousand Youth: Selected Findings of Eight Population-Based Studies as They Pertain to Anti-Gay Harassment and the Safety and Well-Being of Sexual Minority Students. Seattle: Safe Schools Coalition of Washington, 1999.