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Sexual orientation harassment in schools study: SFSU expert free to comment



Matt Itelson
SFSU Office of Public Affairs
(415) 338-1743
(415) 338-1665


Press Release published by the Office of Public Affairs


Researcher hopes today's report compels schools to create harassment policies, training programs

SAN FRANCISCO, January 12, 2004 -- A San Francisco State University researcher with nearly 30 years of experience studying gay and lesbian health issues is available to comment on today's California Safe Schools Coalition report that states harassment and bullying based on sexual orientation remain persistent and pervasive in California schools.

The "Safe Place to Learn Report" states that 7.5 percent of California middle and high school students, more than 200,000 students every year, are targets of harassment based on actual or perceived sexual orientation. The study found that widespread bullying has dangerous academic, health and safety consequences for students.

Caitlin Ryan, director of adolescent health initiatives for the Cesar E. Chavez Institute at SFSU and a member of the steering committee of the California Safe Schools Coalition, said she hopes the study's findings will compel school administrators to develop harassment policies and provide staff training to protect all youth in schools.

"The report clearly shows how vital it is for school districts to implement state law to provide a safe learning environment for all students," said Ryan, a clinical social worker who helped edit the report. "The costs of unsafe schools are very high in terms of suffering and loss of potential."

Ryan is in the midst of a three-year study on the physical and mental health outcomes of lesbian, gay and bisexual youth who disclose their sexual orientation to family members during adolescence. Preliminary results of her research found that parents have little knowledge of how to best protect their children in schools, where to turn for help, and what their child's rights are when harassed or bullied.

Ryan is the author of "Lesbian and Gay Youth: Care and Counseling," the first comprehensive guide to health and mental health care for lesbian and gay youth. A founder and past president of the National Lesbian and Gay Health Foundation and a founder of the National Association of People with AIDS, she has helped develop policies and implement services for women, adolescents, substance users and lesbian and gay adults and youth as a consultant to many federal and nonprofit agencies. Her previous research has focused on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth in schools and care of LGBT youth in residential programs.

Ryan can be reached at (415) 920-9230 (home) or (415) 786-5383 (cell).


NOTE: For a copy of the "Safe Place to Learn" report, contact Matt Itelson at (415) 338-1743 or or Jason Riggs at (415) 871-7351 or


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Last modified April 20, 2007, by the Office of Public Affairs