American bullies hardest on gay students

Among developed nations, U.S. leads in homophobic bullying

Ben Taub By Ben Taub

Bullies in American schools mistreat homosexual students far more than those in several other developed countries.

According to a survey by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), bullies in the U.S. are more than twice as likely to physically abuse homosexual students than those in Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Israel, New Zealand, South Africa and the United Kingdom. (The UNESCO survey says data on homophobic bullying is scarce throughout much of Africa, the Middle East and South America.)

Below is a chart detailing percentages of gay students verbally and physically abused in countries with reliable data:

Could abuse and lax policies against bullying be connected?

Hong Kong and South Africa explicitly prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation. In Britain and Israel, schools are legally obliged to address homophobic bullying.

In contrast, most American states have anti-bullying laws, but only a handful formally address bullying based on sexual orientation, according to the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network. Eight legally forbid instruction on homosexuality and related issues in a positive manner.

Studies in Britain and the U.S. show that homophobic bullying has a broad range of psychological and physical effects that can damage students’ academic performance and deter some from pursuing higher education. The graphic below reprises those findings:

In an effort to address bullying at the national level, Congressman Jared Polis, a Colorado Democrat, sponsored a bill called the Student Non-Discrimination Act (H.R. 998) last March. The bill’s objective was “to end discrimination based on actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity in public schools.”

GovTrack, a website dedicated to tracking legislation, projects the bill has a two percent chance of being enacted.