Groundbreaking Report on Virginia’s LGBTQ Youth Offers Insight and Policy Recommendations

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Last week, the Virginia Council on LGBTQ+ Advocacy released the 2019 Report for the Commonwealth of Virginia Policymakers Concerning our LGBTQ+ Youth, the first report of its kind modeled after the Commonwealth of Massachusetts
Commission on LGBTQ Youth
Report
that has been published since 1992.

In their first report, the Virginia Council recommends that the Commonwealth of Virginia must treat the immediate needs of its LGBTQ youth facing exclusion by addressing the following key issues: bullying and suicidality, homelessness, criminal and juvenile justice, and health.

The report’s key findings show that:

Virginia LGBTQ+ Youth Experience Bullying at Higher Rates

  • 75% of Virginia students reported verbal harassment due to their sexual orientation
  • 62% reported verbal harassment due to their gender.
  • 65% of LGTBQ+ students in Virginia experienced at least one form of discrimination in the last year.
  • 34% of LGBTQ+ students nationally reported missing at least one entire day of school in the last month due to feelings of unsafety or discomfort
  • 34.4% are more likely to consider suicide, and 17.6% are more likely to attempt suicide Virginia LGBTQ+ Youth Experience Homelessness at Higher Rates
  • 75% of homeless LGBTQ+ youth and 90% of transgender youth report family rejection as their primary reason for homelessness.
  • LGBTQ+ youth experiencing homelessness are more likely to have been physically, emotionally, or sexually abused in the home.
  • 50% of LGBTQ+ youth experiencing homelessness lack proper identification cards, making it harder to receive necessary services.

Virginia LGBTQ+ Youth Experience Higher Criminalization

  • LGBTQ+ youth are 2x as likely to enter the juvenile system as their non-LGBTQ+ peers.
  • 50% of LGBTQ+ youth are at higher risk of entering the juvenile justice system than their nonLGBTQ+ peers.
  • An estimated 85% of LGBTQ+ youth in the criminal justice system are youth of color.

Virginia LGBTQ+ Youth Experience Higher Health Disparities

  • 12.4% more of LGBTQ+ high school students have experienced forced sexual intercourse and dating violence
  • 24% of transgender youth have experienced discrimination by a doctor or other healthcare provider due to their gender identity.

To address these issues, the Council recommends the following:

Reduction of Bullying in Schools by Addressing Bias

  • Require LBGTQ+ competency training such as recommended by the National LGBT Cancer Network (Margolies, 2019), for all state employees and contractors, so that they may deliver competent and equitable services to LGBTQ+ individuals, free of bias and discrimination.
  • Adopt policies (see 2019 HB 2421 introduced by Delegate Mark Levine) that recognize sexual orientation and gender identity diversity in workplaces and public accommodations.
  • Adopt policies (as recommended in GLSEN’s model state anti-bullying and harassment legislation) to eliminate discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation in all school settings.
  • Require the establishment of LGBTQ+ inclusive instructions and instructional materials, within both Curriculum and Textbooks, in all public school settings. Recommendation is to model Virginia legislation after that adopted by the state of New Jersey.
  • Establish an interagency collaboration to address familial rejection of LGBTQ+ youth as recommended by the Human Rights Campaign under the title All Children All Families, Achieving Safety, Permanency, and Well-being by Improving Practices with LGBTQ Youth and Families.

Prevent and Treat LGBTQ+ Youth Homelessness

  • Improve access to state IDs for youth experiencing homelessness by making this identification less costly and more accessible.
  • Create a Bill of Rights such as that adopted in Rhode Island for people experiencing homelessness, inclusive of LGBTQ+ youth.
  • Improve the Virginia Youth Count Survey to ensure LGBTQ+ homeless inclusion. Refer to the University of Houston Youth Count 2.0 (Narnedorf, 2015) as a model for methods of counting homeless youth.

Reform Criminal & Juvenile Justice

  • Support organizations such as those associated with the Dignity in Schools Campaign, seeking to eliminate the school-to-prison school to deportation pipeline and explore how to develop a Comprehensive State Plan to do so.
  • Increase collection of data on sexual orientation and gender identity throughout the juvenile and criminal justice systems.
  • Ensure that memorandums of understanding (MOUs) regarding school resource officers (SROs) are in place and address LGBTQ+ disparities. Modify the Virginia model MOU to include LGBTQ+ youth and cultural diversity issues.
  • Add consideration of LGBTQ+ youth to the Attorney General’s Virginia Rules program Trust and Respect between Teens and Law Enforcement and encourage expansion of this program.

Improve Health

  • Ban the harmful and discredited practice of conversion therapy, through legislation such as Virginia 2018 HB363 by Delegate Patrick Hope and/or action by the Virginia state Department of Health Professions Regulatory Boards on Psychology, Counseling, Social Work, Medicine, and Nursing.
  • Ensure that comprehensive, age-appropriate, and LGBTQ+-inclusive sexual health education is given in every school district and supported with adequate funding. It is recommended Virginia pass legislation modeled on that of Colorado with 2019 HB19-1032.
  • Provide level or increased funding for HIV services that provide critical services for LGBTQ+ youth, particularly LGBTQ+ youth of color.
  • Ensure that any response to the opioid crisis takes into account the specific needs of LGBTQ+ youth.
  • Repeal Virginia code 63.2-1709.3 concerning child-placing agencies.

The Virginia Council on LGBTQ+ Advocacy, was founded by Vicki Yeroian, MSW, Deborah Hawkins, MA and Roland Winston. The report was developed by Lily Hamilton, BSW, of Virginia Commonwealth University & Podium RVA, May 2019 and by the Virginia Council on LGBTQ+ Advocacy

The Council will share this report and recommendations with policy and lawmakers in advance of the 2020 General Assembly and others interested in the state of Virginia LGBTQ+ youth. The Council is planning on generating future reports with recommendations for state administrative departments, school systems, and law enforcement. You may contact the council via email at: vacouncillgbtq@gmail.com


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