BOGOTÁ — A majority of gay and lesbian students in Colombia feel unsafe in school and almost a quarter of them miss classes because they fear getting bullied, a survey by two non-profits found. Sixty-seven percent of LGBT secondary schoolchildren feel unsafe at school, according to the poll by advocacy groups Colombia Diversa and Sentiido, which surveyed 500 students.

A 14-year-old bisexual student said she had not yet come out as her school would "open a disciplinary folder and force her to see a psychologist." An 18-year-old said he was relieved to have finished secondary school. He said he was tired of hearing one teacher repeat that gay men would "end up with a ripped sphincter," research by the study found.

Juliana Martínez, a member of Sentiido and a lecturer at the American University, told El Espectador that there are no figures on bullying of LGBT students at Colombian schools. "We're practically guessing ... (as) it is often not recognized as violence," she said.

The poll found that 59% of victims prefer to not speak up about the intimidation they face. This is not surprising. Many schools and parents blame the LGBT student, not the bully. Constitutional rights and the education ministry's rules are rarely enforced in schools. Sergio Urrego, a gay student who committed suicide in August 2014 after relentless bullying, has finally made Colombians wake up to the toxic environment in schools.

The study offered solutions to reduce bullying of LGBT students at school such as monitoring the language students use in classrooms. It's impossible ... to build a country at peace, when our educational institutions are favorable settings for war and violence," the survey noted.

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