Posted on 1 March 2009
High school students are exposed to homophobic incidents that range from hearing “gay” used as a synonym for “stupid” or “worthless” to insulting and assaulting students because of their sexual or transgender identity or their perceived sexual or transgender identity. This report discusses the results of a national survey of Canadian high school students undertaken in order to identify the forms and extent of their experiences of homophobic incidents at school and measures being taken by schools to combat this common form of bullying.
Phase one of the study involved surveying almost 1700 students from across Canada through two methods: individual online participation and in-school sessions conducted in four school boards. This report analyzes the data from individual online participation. The study has been funded by Egale Canada Human Rights Trust, the University of Winnipeg, and SVR/CIHR.
The lack of a solid Canadian evidence base has been a major impediment faced by educators who need to understand the situation of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning (LGBTQ) students in order to respond appropriately and to assure the school community that homophobic bullying is neither rare nor harmless but a major problem that needs to be addressed. The information presented here has come from young people themselves through the many hundreds of students, LGBTQ, questioning, and straight, who took the time to make their voices heard by completing our survey. We reached them by advertising the survey widely through news releases and direct contact with organizations across the country that had LGBTQ youth memberships.
The survey itself was a fifty-four item questionnaire made available online and in print, and consisting mostly of multiple-choice questions of three kinds: demographic (e.g., age, province, gender and sexual identity), experiences (e.g, hearing gay used as insult, being verbally harassed), and institutional responses (e.g., staff intervention, inclusive safe-school policies). Quantitative data were tested for statistical significance through bivariate analysis that compared the responses of various groups of students (e.g., LGBTQ and non-LGBTQ, LGB and transgender, current versus past).