A statewide organization that provides support to gay high school students says verbal and physical abuse of homosexuals is still prevalent in hallways and classrooms. Ryan Roemerman is director of the Iowa Pride Network, which on Wednesday released results from a new survey involving 180 students in 37 Iowa schools who identify themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. He says one in three students reported an incident of physical harassment because of their sexual orientation.
Roemerman says the survey found that students were less likely to face harassment or abuse in schools that have adopted anti-bullying policies based on sexual orientation. A new state, which took effect last September, requires schools in the state to include sexual orientation in their anti-bullying policies.
"Some schools already had policies that included sexual orientation and gender identity," Roemerman says, "and in those schools we found that students were three times more likely to report never being verbally harassed. Twenty percent more students reported never being sexually harassed or physically assaulted. We also found that 37-percent reported never being cyber-bullied, which means getting instant messages, texts or e-mails based on their sexual orientation."
Next year, the Iowa Pride Alliance will conduct it’s first survey following a full year of the new anti-bullying legislation being in place. Roemerman says, so far, all the data his organization has compiled shows that the anti-bullying policies do work. He says it also appears that schools with Gay-Straight Alliances have lower rates of name calling, harassment and assault. The survey results and details on how it was conducted are available on-line at www.IowaPrideNetwork.org.