Poll: Five Percent of High School Students 'Identify As Gay'

By Susan Jones | July 7, 2008 | 8:05 PM EDT

(CNSNews.com) - The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network says based on the results of a new poll, about 5 percent of American high school students "identify as gay or lesbian"; 16 percent said they have a homosexual relative; and 72 percent said they know someone who is homosexual.

The national poll questioned 9th-12th grade students across the country about sexual orientation, name-calling, and general attitudes towards lesbian and gay people in schools, GLSEN said in a press release.

"The findings suggest that, on average, every classroom in America has at least one student who identifies as lesbian or gay and that a majority of those students know at least one gay or lesbian person, whether it be a teacher, a classmate or a family member," noted GLSEN Executive Director Kevin Jennings.

The poll also found that homophobic language is "rampant," and that students' attitudes toward homosexuality are most likely to be influenced by parents, friends, and even TV shows.

The new poll, along with GLSEN's 2003 National School Climate Survey of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students, documents what GLSEN calls "the widespread problem of anti-LGBT language, name-calling, bullying and harassment in America's schools."

"It is probably shocking to many adults how many of their children are using offensive homophobic language day in and day out in our nation's high schools," said Marty McGough, of Widmeyer Research and Polling, which conducted the survey. "What the research also gives us is an indication on the large population of LGBT students who have to listen to it."

"Students spend their days in classrooms where 'faggot' is heard more often than the morning announcements," said GLSEN's Jennings.

"We know from the data that visibility and personal experience with gay and lesbian people are important first steps in making name-calling, bullying and harassment unacceptable in America's schools.

"However what is most important are parents, friends, and school communities taking a stand for respect and acceptance of all people regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity."

The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network says it is dedicated to ensuring safe schools for all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students."