Bismarck – LGBTQ middle and high school students in North Dakota have thoughts of suicide and experience bullying and discrimination more often than heterosexual students in the state, according to a recent report from the Community Upgrading Program.
The North Dakota LGBTQ+ School Climate Report, created through the Fargo-based Community Upscaling Program, combines data from national and North Dakota state and state surveys, as well as a self-contained survey of responses from 38 North Dakota school districts, to illustrate the environment for LGBTQ students in school and the current school policies for those students, or lack thereof.
North Dakota is not an exception in terms of LGBTQ students reporting worse mental health outcomes than heterosexual students, but the report says that many of the state’s school districts lack policies and procedures to specifically support LGBTQ students.
According to the report, more than 60% of gay young men in North Dakota said they had seriously considered attempting suicide, making them 222% more likely to contemplate suicide than their straight peers. Nearly 60% said they had experienced bullying on school property.
The report says that his goal is Address areas where North Dakota schools can improve.
Researchers sent a survey to 199 North Dakota school districts to inquire about the types of LGBTQ staff training and school policies and resources that exist within the district. Only 38 schools responded, according to the report, but the vast majority of respondents said there is no requirement for teachers to undergo LGBTQ cultural competency training, and teachers are not encouraged to incorporate LGBTQ topics into the classroom.
More than 80% of school districts that responded to the survey said they had no “procedure that specifically addresses the needs of transgender and non-binary students,” according to the report. However, 63% of responding schools had “comprehensive anti-LGBT bullying policies.”
The School Climate Report was written by Faye Seidler, who said in an editorial that she wanted to see North Dakota LGBTQ students grow up in a more welcoming environment that allowed young people to accept themselves.
“I want young gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, gay or lesbian youth or anything else to be able to have support, happiness, and dream of a better tomorrow,” Seidler said in the report. “As a North Dakotan, I understand that this state has significant cultural and religious barriers to helping our gay community…I want to believe that we can put all our differences aside and work to make sure these kids have a future.”
The report also contains a section that specifically addresses misconceptions about transgender youth that provides advice on how parents can be supportive of their children who identify as transgender.
According to the report, the “most effective and cost-effective” way for counties to support LGBT youth is to publicly say they are committed to being inclusive.
“We know we don’t have all the answers here, but this (report) is the start of a conversation that is meant to be a dialogue with this whole country, because we can’t stand that report simply being in the email or sitting at someone’s desk,” he said. in the report. “We can’t stand people reading this, thinking it’s a real shame, and going about their day. Our gay youth desperately need people to take action.”
Readers can reach Forum Correspondent Michelle Griffith, a member of Report on America’s Body, at firstname.lastname@example.org.