Discrimination, harassment, and bullying against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth are a major concern. Research shows that such victimization starts early, occurring in elementary schools. Given the central role social media play in the lives of youth, cyberbullying is an increasing concern. Victimization also takes the form of sexual harassment. Anti-LGBTQ victimization can cause youth to distance themselves from the school environment both physically and emotionally, skipping school or dropping out entirely. Fighting back against victimization and other factors, such as family rejection, homelessness, and survival crimes such as shoplifting, can cause LGBTQ youth to become involved with the juvenile justice system at higher rates than their heterosexual and cisgender peers. Research also shows that victimization correlates with greater behavioral health burden, including substance use disparities, suicidal ideation, depression, self-esteem, and social integration. LGBTQ youth are more likely to feel unsafe at school, get in a fight at school, and carry a weapon to school. Victimization also negatively correlates with academic performance, and hopes and aspirations for the future, such as plans to attend college. There is limited research on the disproportionate racial/ethnic impacts of these phenomena.
A number of school-based programs and policies, and public policy interventions, have been initiated to ensure equal access to public education for LGBTQ youth. These include teacher and staff training, safe school programs, gay-straight alliances, and LGBT-focused schools. Policy interventions include nondiscrimination laws and regulations at the local and state level, interpretation of federal sex discrimination laws to encompass and prohibit some forms of anti-LGBT discrimination and harassment, and Congressional bills which would outlaw sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination in public schools. Some state and federal laws, such as parental rights provisions and abstinence-only laws, inhibit educators’ and administrators’ ability promote tolerance and acceptance of LGBT youth and promote sexual health and reduce HIV/sexually transmitted infection risk. There are a number of gaps in the research on LGBT-related school policies, including how to engender better parent–child communication about LGBT identity development and sexual health and how to measure sexual behavior in an increasingly nonbinary world.