Groundbreaking Research on Demographic and Ecological Factors Contributing to Hostile School Climate for Gay Youth Published in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence
NEW YORK, August 31, 2009 - Groundbreaking research, conducted by GLSEN (the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network), examining how regional, community-level and school-district level variables relate to hostile school climates for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth has been published in the August issue of the Journal of Youth and Adolescence. The article reveals that youth in rural and impoverished areas face increased levels of bullying and harassment based on sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. GLSEN Research Director Joseph Kosciw, PhD, also serves as a guest editor for the issue, co-authoring a special introduction that explores new research on LGBT youth.
Using data from GLSEN's 2007 National School Climate Survey, a national survey of 6,209 LGBT secondary school students, the article demonstrates that LGBT youth in rural communities, communities with higher poverty and communities with lower adult educational attainment may face particularly hostile school climates.
"Although LGBT youth as a whole face hostile school environments, findings from this study demonstrate that LGBT youth are not a monolithic group - their experiences differ depending upon their individual characteristics, their location, and the characteristics of their community," said Dr. Kosciw. "These findings highlight the importance of considering the multiple contexts that LGBT youth inhabit, particularly as they pertain to educational experiences."
Although there were high incidences of victimization of LGBT youth irrespective of region or locale, for LGBT youth, schools in rural communities were the more unsafe than schools in urban or suburban areas.
LGBT youth in higher poverty communities reported more victimization in school because of sexual orientation and gender expression than those in more affluent communities. Yet, they were less likely to hear homophobic remarks - both homophobic epithets and remarks using "gay" in a derogatory manner.
LGBT youth in communities with a higher proportion of college graduates were less likely to hear homophobic remarks or experience victimization based on sexual orientation.
Regional differences in tolerance and acceptance levels appear to be related to other community-level factors, such as educational attainment and income.
GLSEN research experts have been interviewed for numerous media outlets in almost every region of the country. They make the case that anti-LGBT bullying and harassment is a pervasive problem in America's schools and offer evidence-based solutions that can help improve school climate for all students.
Joseph G. Kosciw is the Director of Research at GLSEN. He has a PhD in Community Psychology from New York University, a BA in Psychology and an MSEd in School Counseling from the University of Pennsylvania. He trained as a family therapist and has worked as a school counselor and psychoeducational consultant in elementary and secondary schools. His research has focused on evaluation and program development of community-based initiatives for LGBT adolescents and adults regarding health and well-being, community effects on family processes and the family-school connection.
Emily A. Greytak is a Senior Research Associate at GLSEN. She has an MSEd in Education Policy from the University of Pennsylvania and a BA in Psychology from Haverford College. She is currently a doctoral candidate in Education Policy, Management and Evaluation at the University of Pennsylvania. Other areas of inquiry include evaluation of training programs and the readiness of school personnel to foster safe school environments.
Elizabeth M. Diaz is a Research Associate at GLSEN. She has a BA in Sociology and Chicano Studies from the University of Minnesota, and is working toward a Master's degree in Sociology from George Washington University. Her research interests include the educational experiences of LGBTQ youth of color and the effects of abstinence-only sex education on school climate.
Link to abstract of the article in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence, Issue 38, pp 976-988:
Who, What, Where, When, and Why: Demographic and Ecological Factors Contributing to Hostile School Climate for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Youth
Link to introduction to special issue of the Journal of Youth and Adolescence:
New Research on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Youth: Studying Lives in Context
GLSEN located survey participants through community-based groups serving LGBT youth and via the Internet. The sample consisted of a total of 6,209 LGBT K-12 students, from all 50 states and the District of Columbia, between the ages of 13 and 21. For the purposes of the current study, participants were also excluded if they had not provided school district information, resulting in a sample of 5,420 youth.
GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, is the leading national education organization focused on ensuring safe schools for all students. Established in 1990, GLSEN envisions a world in which every child learns to respect and accept all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. GLSEN seeks to develop school climates where difference is valued for the positive contribution it makes to creating a more vibrant and diverse community.
GLSEN research focuses on understanding the school experiences of all students, specifically as they are related to issues regarding sexual orientation and gender identity/expression, the school experiences of LGBT parents, perceptions of educators and school administrators regarding school climate, and the utility of school- and community-based efforts regarding bullying and harassment.