Monday, October 13, 2008

Friday, October 10, 2008

Iowa Pride Network releases 2007 school climate survey

New Study Shows Gay-Straight Alliances, Inclusive Policies Reduce Harassment

West Des Moines, IA – January 30 – Iowa Pride Network today announced findings from the 2007 Iowa School Climate Survey (ISCS), the only state survey to document the experiences of students who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) in Iowa's schools. The survey results were released today at West Des Moines Valley High School in conjunction with Iowa Pride Network's 2nd Annual Gay-Straight Alliance Day.

"The 2007 Iowa School Climate Survey reveals that anti-LGBT bullying and harassment remain commonplace in Iowa's schools," said Iowa Pride Network Co-Founder and Director Ryan Roemerman. "On the positive side, it also makes clear that inclusive policies, supportive school staff and student clubs, like Gay-Straight Alliances, all relate to reduced harassment and higher achieving students."

Key findings from the 2007 Iowa Pride Network School Climate Survey include:

Iowa’s LGBT students continue to feel unsafe in school and face verbal and physical harassment or assault daily:

  • Nine in ten students (91%) of LGBT students in Iowa reported hearing homophobic remarks frequently in their schools.
  • Over a third (36%) of Iowa LGBT students reported some incident of physical harassment (being pushed or shoved) because of their sexual orientation; while nearly 16% of students reported some incident of physical assault (being punched, kicked or injured with a weapon) because of their sexual orientation or gender expression.

Anti-harassment and non-discrimination policies with enumerated categories such as “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” do work to end bullying, harassment and discrimination in our schools. In schools WITH inclusive policies:

  • Students were 3 times more likely to report never being verbally harassed
  • 10% more students report never being physically harassed
  • 12% more students report never having their property stolen or deliberately damaged
  • 17% more students report never having mean lies or rumors spread about them
  • 20% more students report never being sexually harassed
  • 20% more students report never being physically assaulted
  • 37% more students report never being cyber-bullied

Students who have a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) in their school report having decreased absenteeism, lower rates of name calling, harassment and assault. In schools WITH GSAs:

  • 25% are less likely to be verbally harassed because of their gender
  • 23% of LGBT students are less likely to skip class and 15% are less likely to not attend school because of feeling uncomfortable or unsafe
  • 23% are less likely to be physically assaulted because of their sexual orientation
  • 21% are more likely to report never having been sexually harassed at school
  • 12% are less likely to be physically harassed or assaulted because of their gender expression
  • 10% are less likely to be verbally harassed because of their gender expression or physically harassed because of their sexual orientation
  • 10% are more likely to report never being cyber-bullied because of their gender
  • 8% are more likely to report being rarely cyber-bullied because of their sexual orientation or gender expression

In response to the survey findings, the Governor’s Office has declared today “Iowa Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) Day”. The goals of Iowa Pride Network’s GSA Day are to honor GSAs, students and staff around that state that work to end violence, homophobia and transphobia in Iowa schools and colleges.

"The Governor and I are committed to doing whatever we can to ensure that every single student in this state has a safe and nurturing environment in which to learn," said Lt. Governor Patty Judge. "We commend the state's many outstanding Gay-Straight Alliances for their hard work in making our schools more accepting and welcoming of all people."

The 2nd Annual Iowa GSA Day ( is a day where hundreds of students from dozens of secondary schools and colleges are expected to take part in activities to address the serious problems of anti-LGBT bullying and harassment, while advocating for solutions - like GSAs and educator trainings - to ensure safe schools for ALL students.

The 2007 Iowa Pride Network School Climate Survey included responses from 180 LGBT and allied high school students from 37 schools across the state. Key findings, the complete survey and additional information about methodology and demographics may be obtained by calling the Iowa Pride Network at 515-243-1110 or by visiting

About Iowa Pride Network
Iowa Pride Network empowers students to fight homophobia and transphobia in high schools and colleges by supporting gay-straight alliance (GSA) clubs and providing leadership opportunities and organizing projects centered on social justice.

University of Northern Iowa, Urbandale High School named “Best Gay-Straight Alliances”

For Immediate Release
Contact: Ryan Roemerman, Director, Iowa Pride Network,
515-243-1110 (Daytime Phone) 515-371-8355 (Nighttime Phone)

University of Northern Iowa, Urbandale High School named “Best Gay-Straight Alliances”

(Des Moines) The University of Northern Iowa and Urbandale High School were presented with Iowa Pride Network’s Award for Best Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) at the Annual Iowa Pride Network Honors program held in Des Moines during its annual Spring Soiree fundraising event.

The Iowa Pride Network Awards go to GSAs that have shown a committed effort to raising awareness of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) issues on their campuses and in their communities and have pioneered programs that have increased the respect of LGBT people. Each application is evaluated on five categories: Education, Programming, Advocacy, Outreach and Community Service with consideration given to the impact their GSA programs and initiatives have on the climate and culture of their community.
“Both award-winning GSAs has worked hard to educate their campuses about the prejudices that still exist for LGBT and Straight Allied people and provided venues for their group, its members and classmates to have an open dialogue,” stated Ryan Roemerman, Iowa Pride Network Director.

In addition two very successful weeks of awareness, UNI’s GSA held weekly meetings that focused on body image issues, gay-marriage, transgender vocabulary, civil rights and LGBT history. GSA members participated in over 30 panel discussions for various residence halls and campus departments. The group is currently in the process of creating a fully established speakers bureau.

Urbandale’s GSA was active in helping pass Iowa’s Safe Schools Law and has taught fellow students about their rights, what teachers should do to protect them, and what they can do to protect other students. GSA members also fought to participate in the National Day of Silence. Some community members were pushing for the school to ban student participation in the day. Urbandale’s administration, after hearing from GSA members, wouldn’t allow the Day of Silence to be banned.

“Ultimately,” as one student explained, “the most important thing our GSA can do is to provide a safe learning environment for LGBT and Straight Allied Students to go. This year I had two close friends come-out to me and their parents. One student’s parents were very supportive; the other sent him to a therapist. I encouraged him to join the GSA. We all shared our coming-out stories. After the meeting, my friend told me that it really helped to know he wasn’t alone.”

Ten Years of Change - No Progress

Read more about Judy Shepard's views about the ten years since Matthew's death here.

Anti-bullying bill passes Iowa Senate

by TODD DORMAN, Globe Gazette Des Moines Bureau

DES MOINES — A bill requiring school districts to adopt anti-bullying policies expressly protecting gay and lesbian students cleared the Iowa Senate Tuesday night.

The bill, approved 36-14, is a top priority for Democrats who control the Iowa Senate and House. Passage sends the bill to the House, which could send it to Gov. Chet Culver as early as today.

Sen. Amanda Ragan, D-Mason City, voted for the bill; Sen. Thurman Gaskill, R-Corwith, against it.

“I think this is a historic night for the Senate and a great night for the students of Iowa,” said Sen. Mike Connolly, D-Dubuque, the bill’s lead sponsor. “This bill is about providing a safe and civil environment in schools.”

Republicans criticized the bill, arguing that it would be what one GOP senator called a “litigation golden goose” that could be costly for schools.

Six Republicans joined 30 Democrats voting in favor of the bill.

The bill requires school districts to enact a policy by Sept. 1 targeting bullying and harassment against students. But schools also would be expected to take specific aim at bullies whose taunts are tied to a list of real or perceived traits and characteristics.

The list includes, “age, color, creed, national origin, race, religion, marital status, sex, sexual orientation, gender, identity, physical attributes, physical or mental ability or, disability, ancestry, political beliefs, socioeconomic status, or familial status.”

Supporters argue that homosexual students and others listed in the bill have endured what they called a “historic pattern” of harassment in schools and deserve special attention from local officials.

Districts can add to the list, but can’t subtract categories. The bill would apply to students, staff and volunteers at all accredited public and nonpublic schools.

Republicans argued the bill could open the door for legal action against private, religious schools with doctrines that regard homosexuality as a sin. GOP senators offered an amendment seeking to exempt non-public schools from having to adopt the state-mandated policy.

But the amendment was defeated on a 28-22 vote.