"I never dealt with this as a middle school principal in the 1990s," said John Norig, director of program development for the National Association of Secondary School Principals, which is beginning to address the issue. But even progressive schools with strong anti-gay harassment policies said coming out is particularly hard in middle school.
"I still don't believe it's safe for 11- to 14-year olds to come out without support," Alison Boggs, principal at Casey Middle School in Boulder, Colo., told ABCNews.com. She has seen one or two students a year come out.
"About 98 percent of the kids are questioning at this age," she said. "Many are not coming out right away and some are not gay."
But for those few who feel strong enough to come out, the school sends them to a counselor so they feel "supported and accepted" at the school.
The Boulder school starts each year explaining to students that all categories of harassment are forbidden. When incidents occur, they are dealt with swiftly and individually.
"We do whatever it takes," said Boggs. "We can't let it go and assume we did it in class and everyone heard it."
"Like other forms of sexual harassment, once they are educated, kids do pretty well and will stop if we make it clear," said Boggs.
"In this age group, they are still forming their identity, and they may be sure, but not all that sure," she said. "But they are feeling safer to express themselves."
Jody Huckaby, executive director of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, which promotes the health and well-being of LGBTs agrees, but said, "There's so much more work to be done to create a safe environment for these kids."
Even in families with parental acceptance, there is a great need for support and education and information for other family members, neighbors and the community, said parents and advocates. And now, many children who have been raised in same-sex families are entering elementary and middle school.
"When Bobby shows up with two mommies, sexual orientation presents itself at earlier and earlier ages," said Huckaby. "The work to develop curricula has to be done earlier.
It's a reality that gay people exist and it's easier and easier for kids to develop a language around the fact that they are different."