SURVEY finds gays attacked less in schools with sensitivity training

Thursday, May 31st 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ A survey of gay and lesbian high school students suggests they endure less violence and confrontation in schools where students receive gay-sensitive AIDS instruction.

The survey, appearing Friday in the American Journal of Public Health, also found that gay, lesbian and bisexual students in schools without sensitivity training were more likely to report risky and frequent sex, substance abuse and suicide attempts.

``Gay, lesbian and bisexual youths were at greatest risk in schools where no or minimal levels of gay-sensitive HIV instruction existed,'' according to the survey.

The research was conducted among pupils at 59 schools in Massachusetts, where school personnel are offered training on sexual orientation and suicide prevention and counseling services are available for homosexual students and their families.

Researchers from George Washington University and the Center for Applied Behavioral and Evaluation Research in Washington and the Massachusetts Department of Education conducted the survey.

The survey conclusions were based on questionnaires completed at 54 high schools by 3,647 students, including 151 who either identified themselves as gay or were identified through same-sex sexual behavior. The pupils' ages ranged from 13 to more than 18 in grades 9 through 12.

Overall, the survey found that 53.6 percent of heterosexual students reported drinking in the last 30 days. Among homosexual students, 69.7 percent reported drinking.

Gay students were almost twice as likely as heterosexual students to report having had sexual intercourse in the last three months, 68.5 percent to 47.8 percent.

On questions of personal safety, homosexual students were about four times more likely to have attempted suicide as heterosexual students, 36.1 percent versus 9.4 percent. About 28.3 percent of homosexual students reported threats or injury, versus 6.9 percent of heterosexual students. About 20.3 percent of homosexuals missed school because they felt unsafe, compared with 5 percent for the others.

In schools with gay-sensitive HIV training, suicide planning by homosexuals dropped to 27.7 percent, and 12.2 percent missed class because of fears of personal safety.

The authors said 39.1 percent of gay students at schools with high levels of the training reported recent sexual intercourse, compared to 78.2 percent at schools with none or minimal training.