Hate Watch

School hate crimes have quadrupled in states with anti-LGBTQ+ laws

After record years for anti-LGBTQ+ legislation, advocates have repeatedly warned that the hostile political climate would inevitably lead to violence. Data now confirms this is the case, as anti-LGBTQ+ hate crimes have quadrupled in K-12 schools in states where queerphobic laws have advanced in the name of protecting children.

On Tuesday, The Washington Post published an analysis of FBI data on hate crimes occurring at K-12 schools and college campuses. According to the FBI, the most common reported hate crimes against LGBTQ+ students included intimidation, assault without a weapon, and vandalism.

Across the country, the number of hate crimes “serious enough to be reported to local police” more than doubled. Between 2015 and 2019, the national average for both K-12 schools and colleges was 108 reported hate crimes. This average predictably went down in 2020 due to COVID school closures. But between 2021 and 2022, the national average spiked at 232.

Looking at statistics for individual states, the number of reported hate crimes was significantly higher in states that had advanced anti-LGBTQ+ laws. Those states were averaging at 28 per year in 2015-2019 but that number tripled to 90 per year in 2021-2022.

The Post notes that reported hate crimes also spiked from 79 to 140 per year in states that did not advance anti-LGBTQ+ laws during the same time period. One potential reason is that states with strong anti-bullying protections are often required to instruct students and parents on how to report harassment, making it more likely they will do so. In more tolerant states, there are also likely to be more openly LGBTQ+ students, which increases the chances of bullying.

When college campuses are taken out of the equation, the average of anti-LGBTQ+ hate crimes reported in elementary, middle and high schools more than quadrupled. These schools represent a particular battlefield for conservatives, with many of the over 400 anti-LGBTQ+ bills advanced by state legislatures singling out K-12 students for discrimination.

Just as hate crimes have risen, calls to LGBTQ+ crisis centers have also spiked. The Trevor Project reported around 230,000 crisis contacts by the end of its 2022 fiscal year. By 2023, calls had jumped to over 500,000. Last month, The Rainbow Youth Project also reported that crisis contacts specifically from Oklahoma had risen after the death of nonbinary Oklahoma teen Nex Benedict.

Callers will say things like, “`My government hates me,’ ‘My school hates me,’ `They don’t want me to exist,’” said Lance Preston, Rainbow Youth Project’s founder and executive director. “That … is absolutely unacceptable. That is shocking.”

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