School bullying has gotten worse for gay, bisexual and transgender students over the years, hurting attendance and academic achievement and increasing their risk of suicide attempts, according to a report released Thursday.
Researchers in the Violence and Victimization Research Program at RTI’s Center for Justice, Safety and Resilience reviewed more than 75 studies released between 1996 to 2016.
“I had really hoped and almost expected to see that things might be moving in a better direction as far as victimization,” said lead author Tasseli McKay. “It really surprised me to see not just are forms of victimization staying the same, some forms are getting worse,” specifically, taunting and violence in schools.
North Carolina’s law requiring transgender people to use bathrooms in government buildings that correspond to the gender on their birth certificates, called House Bill 2, prompted researchers’ interest in the topic, McKay said. They found 200 bills introduced in 2016 in legislatures around the country dealing with gay and transgender people, including “bathroom bills,” and “religious liberty” bills.
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Their review of research for their report, “Violence and LGBTQ+ Communities: What do we know, and what do we need to know,” found no evidence that members of those communities (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and others) pose a threat to others. Many studies suggest that they are more likely to be victims of physical and sexual assault, harassment, bullying and hate crimes, according to the report.
Disparities have persisted over the years despite the perception that society has become more welcoming and open. Gay and transgender youth are less safe than other students at school and at home, leading them to run away and skip school.
RTI International is a nonprofit research institute in Research Triangle Park. The study was self-funded.
The state legislature and Gov. Roy Cooper are trying to negotiate a repeal of HB 2 but are stuck on whether any local nondiscrimination ordinance should be subject to a local referendum, among other disagreements.
John Rustin, president and executive director of the North Carolina Policy Council and an HB 2 supporter, said the law was never about the fear of violence from transgender people.
“The intent of HB2 is not and never has been to single out or vilify individuals who identify as transgender. In fact, the purpose of the bill is to ensure the privacy, safety and dignity of all our state’s citizens,” Rustin said in a statement. “Without the protections provided by HB2, criminals with nefarious intent would have a free pass to enter any multiple occupancy bathroom, shower, or changing room and victimize innocent women and children.”
McKay said she is not a public-policy expert, but “as a researcher and a resident, I have a deep investment that public policies respond to facts and evidence, not preconceived ideas.”
No research is available on HB 2’s effect on the environment for gay and transgender people in North Carolina, McKay said.