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Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer (LGBTQ) Students “Unsafe” in Missouri Schools – GLSEN’s 2017 National School Climate Survey 

Post Written By: Lucy Puckett, TPPP Practicum Student 

Findings from the 2017 National School Climate Survey (NSCS) by GLSEN–the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (pronounced “glisten”)–uncovered devastating realities for Missouri youth and points to the need for community partners to continue to rally behind strategic implementation of LGBTQ+ inclusion in our schools. The NSCS reveals that most LGBTQ+ Missouri teens experience targeted, anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination, often in the form of physical assault, in their schools. 

One of the findings, that 19% of Missouri students surveyed were prohibited from forming a GSA in 2017, is timely, as some local schools have come under scrutiny in the last year for prohibiting the formation of GSAs or have faced backlash from parents for allowing them. A GSA, or, Gender and Sexuality Alliance (formerly referred to as a Gay-Straight Alliance), is a voluntary, student-led organization which provides “a safe place for students to meet, support each other, and talk about issues related to sexual orientation and gender identity and expression” (GSA Network, n.d., para. 1).

“School-based supports such as supportive and inclusive school policies, school personnel who are supportive of LGBTQ students, GSAs, and LGBTQ-inclusive curricular resources can positively affect school climate for LGBTQ students” (GLSEN, 2019, p. 2). 

Further, only 14% of students reported having LGBTQ inclusive curriculum of any type taught in their schools, a number that has stayed the same since GLSEN’s 2013 NSCS. Additionally, only 3% of students surveyed reported receiving inclusive sex education. According to the CDC’s reports on Health Risks Among Sexual Minority Youth, LGBTQ youth are at higher risk than non-LGTBQ+ students of experiencing dating violence or forced sex, and are more vulnerable to some sexual risk behavior and unintended pregnancy (CDC, 2019).

Importantly, however, GLSEN notes in the full, nationwide study: “This report also demonstrates LGBTQ youth’s resilience, even in the face of hostile environments, and highlights the ways LGBTQ students are engaging in school, and taking steps to improve their schools and communities” (Kosciw et al., 2018, p. 4). 

Findings in Missouri

Below is a summary of key findings taken from GLSEN’s Missouri State Snapshot. We encourage you to look at the state snapshot and the full report, which include helpful graphics and summaries, and to share them within your agencies and communities. 

  • The vast majority of LGBTQ students in Missouri regularly (sometimes, often, or frequently) heard anti-LGBTQ remarks. Many also regularly heard school staff make homophobic remarks (23%) and negative remarks about someone’s gender expression (44%). Fewer than 1 in 10 (7%) attended a school with a comprehensive anti-bullying/harassment policy that included specific protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity/expression.
  • Most LGBTQ students in Missouri experienced anti-LGBTQ victimization at school. Only 18% of students who reported incidents said it resulted in effective staff intervention.
  • More than 1 in 3 LGBTQ students (36%) and nearly 3 in 4 transgender students (72%) were unable to use the school restroom aligned with their gender.
  • The vast majority (96%) could identify at least one school staff member supportive of LGBTQ students, but fewer (55%) could identify 6 or more supportive school staff. Approximately 2 in 5 (44%) had access to a GSA or similar student club which provides a safe and affirming space and promotes a more welcoming school climate for LGBTQ students. 
  • Approximately 1 in 10 (14%) were taught positive representations of LGBTQ people, history, or events (“inclusive curriculum”). Only 3% reported receiving LGBTQ-inclusive sex education at school.


Recommendations & Resource Guide

Below are GLSEN’s recommendations along with links to our resource pages that include online, local, and regional resources. To download all resource pages, click here

“Given the high percentages of LGBTQ students in Missouri who experience harassment at school and the limited access to key resources and supports that can have a positive effect on their school experiences, it is critical that Missouri school leaders, education policymakers, and other individuals who are obligated to provide safe learning environments for all students take the following steps” (GLSEN, 2019, p.2):

1. Implement supportive and inclusive school policies, such as comprehensive anti-bullying/harassment and supportive transgender and gender nonconforming student policies
Click here to download a list of resources related to this recommendations. 

2. Support GSAs
Click here to download a list of resources related to this recommendations. 

3. Provide professional development for school staff, families and healthcare providers on LGBTQ student issues   
Click here to download a list of resources related to this recommendations.  

4. Increase student access to LGBTQ-inclusive curricular resources

Click here to download a list of resources related to this recommendations. 

Visit the Links Below for More Missouri-based Resources for LGBTQ+ youth and adults 


CDC, & Division of Adolescent and School Health, National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention. (2019, January 1). Sexual Minority Youth | Disparities | Adolescent and School Health | CDC. Retrieved March 1, 2019, from https://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/disparities/smy.htm 

Kosciw, J. G., Greytak, E. A., Zongrone, A. D., Clark, C. M., & Truong, N. L. (2018). The 2017 National School Climate Survey: The experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer youth in our nation’s schools. New York: GLSEN.

GLSEN. (2019). School Climate in Missouri (State Snapshot). New York: GLSEN. 

GSA Network. (n.d.). What is a GSA. Retrieved March 1, 2019, from https://gsanetwork.org/what-is-a-gsa/

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