by Billy Ball
The national nonprofit, Gay Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN), is expected to release a report Wednesday that will review the anti-bullying policies of more than 13,000 school districts across the country, including districts in North Carolina.
The report, "From Statehouse to Schoolhouse: Anti-Bullying Policy Efforts in U.S. States and School Districts," will examine whether states' anti-bullying rules are implemented at the local level, and whether educators are being trained to handle the issue in the classroom. The study will also determine whether the efforts are having an impact on school climate for LGBT students.
North Carolina's anti-bullying policy does include protections based on sexual orientation. However, the GLSEN's 2013 report on school climates found most schools in North Carolina were a relatively unsafe place for LGBT students.
The "vast" majority of LGBT students reported anti-gay and sexist remarks in the schools. Perhaps most troubling, nearly 30 percent of students reported hearing school staff make negative remarks about someone's gender expression and 21 percent "regularly heard staff make homophobic remarks."
The report also found LGBT students lacked access to school resources such as the Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA), a federally-protected student group that has been shown to improve the climate for such students. GLSEN says LGBT students perform better academically in schools with a GSA.
Locally, the GLSEN has panned Orange County Schools' handling of LGBT issues in recent years, particularly after one middle school principal in Hillsborough was accused last year of repeatedly blocking the formation of a GSA in the school. That principal resigned months after the Indy's report on the allegations.
Most recently, the GLSEN also criticized the school system this spring after third-grade teacher Omar Currie sparked an uproar by reading the gay children's book "King & King" in the classroom to teach a lesson about bullying. Currie, and the assistant principal who loaned him the book, later resigned. Currie claimed he received a lack of support from the school system and its Board of Education.