Youth and Summer Safety

Summer is upon us! June is National Safety Month and school programs and families are encouraged to remember summertime safety needs of youth. The Center for Disease Control’s 2016 summer recommendations include reviewing heat and sun safety, safe water practices, safe home and camp behaviors, and can be found at http://www.cdc.gov/features/kidssafety/.

Because we are mindful of the pressures students face in and out of the learning environment, schools and families are also strongly encouraged to talk about safe and appropriate phone, online and friend-friend behaviors. Direction Survey’s After School Choices data finds 38% of middle school and 32% of surveyed high school students participate in after school programs during the school year. 36% of middle school and 52% of high school students surveyed go home to empty houses after school. When school is out for the summer, many parents still have to go to work, and students without summer activities can be home alone at higher rates than during the school year.

The National Crime Prevention Council (ncpc.org) reminds us youth need to know that “even though their summer schedules may allow for more freedom than their academic schedules, they still need to follow rules and understand that negative choices will continue to bring negative consequences.” The NCPC offers tips parents and schools can use to encourage young people to stay safe at home, when working or volunteering, when they are with friends and when they are traveling.

Direction Survey wishes everyone a safe and productive summer, and encourages schools to review our MEANINGFUL PARTICIPATION and AFTER SCHOOL CHOICES resources when considering summer programming!

Top Questions Asked

In the past year I have been offered, sold, or given illegal drugs by someone on school property – 4% of 9457 middle school participants.

I have consumed alcohol and have been drunk in the last 30 days – 17% of 6908 high school participants.

There is a lot of tension at my school between different cultures, races, or ethnicities – 28% of 9401 middle school, and 27% of 1999 high school participants.

I have felt isolated/harassed at school because of my race, gender, sexual orientation, religion or appearance – 23% of 3334 middle school, and 18% of 1550 high school participants.

Article: Understanding Challenges Faced by Our LGBTQ Students

The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Policy Institute reports that although they continue to be presented with repeat challenges in school environments, LGBTQ (lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning) youth are aligning with “heterosexual youth, school faculty and staff, parents, policymakers, and advocates to promote policy interventions that can interrupt and prevent anti-LGBT bias.” Public education, as a proactive measure to support the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning youth, can be used to facilitate important connections between healthy LGBTQ youth and supportive learning communities.

In survey after survey, LGBTQ youth affirm the need for support services and positive relationships in school. School environments present many challenges for LGBTQ students, increasing their risk for dangerous personal behaviors. When asked about discriminatory school behavior in 2016, 23% of 3334 middle school and 18% of 1550 high school students from Direction Survey report they felt isolated/harassed at school because of their race, gender, sexual orientation, religion or appearance. According to Direction Survey 2016 bully data, 15% of 13,969 middle school students have been bullied in the last 30 days, and 23% of this age group report depression as a result of bullying behavior. 8% of middle school and 9% of high school students surveyed reported thoughts of suicide as a result of bullying on campus.

According to the Center for Disease Control, LGBTQ youth have an increased risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviors, suicide attempts, and suicide. The 2015 National Youth Risk Behavior Study reviewed responses from adolescents in grades 7–12. In surveys conducted from 2001‒2009 across 7 states and 7 urban school districts, the percentage of LGBTQ students who reported being “threatened or injured with a weapon on school property in the prior year” ranged from 12% to 28%. The survey also reports “19% to 29% of gay and lesbian students and 18% to 28% of bisexual students experienced dating violence in the prior year.” Data further reveals lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth were more than twice as likely to have attempted suicide in their lifetimes.

There are many online resources available for educators and families. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) October 2015 publication Ending Conversion Therapy: Supporting and Affirming LGBTQ Youth provides mental health professionals and families with accurate information about effective and ineffective therapeutic practices related to children’s and adolescent’s sexual orientation and gender identity. Information and a copy of the document can be found at http://www.samhsa.gov/newsroom/press-announcements/201510150630. SAMHSA also offers A Practitioner’s Resource Guide: Helping Families to Support Their LGBT Children, which offers information and resources to help practitioners throughout education, health and social service systems implement best practices in engaging and helping families and caregivers to support their LGBT children. It can be accessed at http://store.samhsa.gov/product/Top-Health-Issues-for-LGBT-Populations/All-New-Products/SMA12-4684.

The Human Rights Campaign’s “Welcoming Schools” initiative offers educators and schools extensive resources as they work to make learning environments supportive and inclusive of LGBTQ students. Lesson plans and other school program resources can be found at http://www.welcomingschools.org/resources/. The American Psychological Association provides helpful resources for understanding sexual orientation and gender identity, and can found at http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/sexual-orientation.aspx. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) also offers a wide range of resources for students, educators and families of LGBTQ youth, and can be found online at http://www.cdc.gov/lgbthealth/youth-resources.htm.

Additional Organizational Resources:

• Association of Gay and Lesbian Psychiatrists
• Gay and Lesbian Medical Association
• Lesbian and Gay Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Association
• National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) GLBT Mental Health Resources
• TA Partnership for Child and Family Mental Health- LGBTIQ2-S Communities of Practice