CLEVELAND -- Many LGBT students still suffer from bullying and physical harm in their schools, a new study calls for more action and so is a local Wickliffe senior.

Kelly Knaser wrote an essay for the Maltz Museum's "Stop the Hate contest," about how she was treated after she told her friends she was bisexual.

Since, she is providing a voice for other kids who are being treated poorly because of their sexual orientation. A new brief from the National Education Policy Center summarizes recent education policy research and offers suggestions to policymakers for addressing school environment and safety issues for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) youth.

According to the brief, the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) found widespread harassment of LGBT youth in 2011. The survey found 81.9 percent of LGBT students reported being verbally harassed, 38.3 percent reported being physically harassed, and 18.3% reported being physically assaulted.

These are significant and troubling numbers but the good news is that the harassment and discrimination numbers are on the decline. The majority of the harassed students did not report their abuse to school officials, believing they would take no action or it would make the situation worse.

Citing well-settled legal mandates, the brief makes it clear that school district employees must provide a safe and supporting learning environment for all students.

The brief highlights a previous legislative brief authored by Stuart Biegel and Sheila James Kuehl, a collaboration between the National Education Policy Center and the Williams Institute at UCLA Law School, with financial support provided by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

Citing research by Biegel and Kuehl, Mathis spells out a series of affirmative steps in guiding principles and policy recommendations to ensure schools are welcoming and safe for LGBT students.

Specific policy recommendations include:

  • Ending discriminatory disciplinary practices and the inappropriate referral of LGBT students to special education
  • Developing and implementing LGBT-related professional development, locally determined and agreed upon by faculty and staff, for all school-site personnel
  • Encouraging student-athletes to participate in targeted programs such as initiatives addressing bullying and hate violence, as well as gay-straight alliances, safe zones, and wellness programs.