The Board of Directors of the National Education Association (NEA) is developing a set of recommendations to help schools meet the needs of lesbians and gays. The recommendations are meant to combat harassment and discrimination in the school system for both students and teachers. Recommendations will be “provided in accordance with local school district policies” but will focus on fostering respect. “It’s about building on simple civil rights enforcement to create an environment in schools where everyone in the community – students, teachers, education support professionals, and parents – respect each other,” said NEA President Bob Chase. “Ultimately, when we respect each other, schools will be safe and hospitable for all.”
Lesbian and gay youth face numerous obstacles in the school system. In 1995, one in twelve high school health teachers taught their students that homosexuality was wrong. A Massachusetts study found that 97 percent of students in public high schools there regularly heard homophobic comments from their peers. Many lesbian and gay students are prone to truancy, and LAMBDA Legal Defense and Education Fund claims that 40 percent of homeless youth are lesbian or gay. Lesbian and gay youth are also four times more likely to attempt suicide, according to a 1995 report from the Centers for Disease Control and the Massachusetts Department of Education, and gays and lesbians make up 30 percent of all teen suicides, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.