TRENTON – New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal today joined a coalition of Attorneys General from throughout the U.S. in urging the Department of Justice (DOJ) to reverse its decision to end the collection of crime victimization data related to violence against LGBTQ youth.
“The proposed rollback in data collection would keep parents, schools, law enforcement and policy experts in the dark on an all-too-common form of crime – victimization of LGBTQ youth,” cautions a multi-state letter signed by Grewal and addressed to DOJ’s Bureau of Justice Statistics in Washington, D.C.
Today’s letter was prompted by a DOJ decision to change its data collection policy for the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS). The NCVS is administered by the U.S. Census Bureau on behalf of DOJ, and is considered a vital tool for law enforcement agencies, research institutions and the LGBTQ advocacy community in tracking trends in crime and violence. In 2016, DOJ decided to add questions about respondents’ sexual orientation and gender identity to the survey. DOJ is now raising the age at which those survey questions are asked from 16 to 18, ostensibly due to “concerns about the potential sensitivity of these questions for adolescents.”
However, the letter signed by Attorney General Grewal notes that NCVS questions relating to a crime victim’s sexuality are completely voluntary and confidential. The letter also cautions that ending the survey practice of asking 16-to-18-year-olds about their sexual orientation and identity will eliminate a valuable source of information on violence against LGBTQ youth.
“Stakeholders use the information in this survey to address the widespread bullying, threats and actual violence against students based on sexual orientation and gender identity,” the letter points out.
According to the National School Climate Survey conducted by the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network, 85 percent of the 302 LGBTQ students surveyed in New Jersey said they heard negative remarks about gender expression in school. Nearly 80 percent heard homophobic remarks.
And a 2017 report published by DOJ and the U.S. Department of Education showed that LGBTQ youth are almost twice as likely to be bullied and threatened or injured by a weapon at school; almost twice as likely to be in a physical fight; and more likely than others to be offered, sold or given illegal drugs at school.
“LGBTQ youth count on law enforcement officials like USDOJ and the state Attorneys General to protect them,” the letter contends, “and depriving us of relevant data will unnecessarily constrain our efforts to do so.”
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