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Report on Homophobia in US Schools Finds It's Getting Better

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Life is getting better for LGBT students, according to a report that was released Wednesday by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN).

Its 2011 National School Climate Survey finds that use of anti-gay language has continued to decline and, for the first time, victimization of students based on sexual orientation has begun to drop.

GLSEN, a national organization that focuses on ensuring safe schools for all students, has been documenting the experiences of LGBT students every two years since 1999.

The latest survey includes responses from 8,584 students between the ages of 13 and 20, representing all 50 states and the District of Columbia, as well as 3,224 unique school districts.

GLSEN collected data through national and community-based organizations and targeted online advertising on Facebook.

"We are seeing a trend and we are seeing it sustained over time," GLSEN Executive Director Eliza Byard said.  "The picture out there still remains unacceptable, but it's a consistent story -- in places where schools act and do the right thing, students do better.  There are pockets of hope in this picture."

Byard said schools appear to be safer places for LGBT students for four main reasons: support and response from trained adults; bullying prevention programs; gay-straight alliances that give LGBT students a sense of community; and "accurate and positive depictions" of those students in the curriculum.

"This marks the 12th school year that I have worked at GLSEN on these issues," she said.  "The work is hard, and when you see how bad it can be out there and to actually see change begin to happen in historical time, it's thrilling and critical to keep going."

In 2001, when there was, according to Byard, "a sea of disrespect," an estimated 84.3 percent of students said they heard daily use of words like "faggot" and "dyke."  Today, that number has dropped to 71.2 percent.  After hitting a spike in the expression, "That's so gay," in 2007, usage began to drop, in part because of a GLSEN campaign with the Ad Council that was launched in the fall of 2008.

Despite this progress, the survey found a majority of LGBT students are still faced with obstacles that affect their school performance and psychological well-being.

Nearly 82 percent said they had been harassed at school in the past year because of their sexual orientation, and nearly 64 percent said they felt unsafe.  Almost 30 percent said they had skipped a day of school in the last month because of safety concerns.

Transgender students experienced more hostile school climates than their gay and lesbian peers -- 80 percent reported feeling unsafe at school because of their gender expression.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio