Research Report

Supporting Safe and Healthy Schools for LGBTQ Students

A National Survey of Mental Health Providers

Cover of "Supporting Safe and Healthy Schools"

Supporting Safe and Healthy Schools for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) Students provides insight into the work of school-based mental health professionals’ – counselors, psychologists, and social workers – to support LGBTQ youth, as well as barriers they face to supporting them.

Given the critical role school mental health professionals play in the academic and emotional well-being of our nation’s students and the relative lack of national research examining the efforts of counselors, psychologists, and social workers to support LGBTQ students and create safer school environments, we undertook the Supporting Safe and Healthy Schools study to provide a detailed examination of school mental health providers' perspectives and experiences regarding their support of LGBTQ students.

This study was conducted by GLSEN, in partnership with the American Council for School Social Work (ACSSW), the American School Counselor Association (ASCA), and the School Social Work Association of America (SSWAA), and examines school mental health professionals':

  • Perspectives on school climate, including school safety and the frequency of bullying and harassment facing LGBTQ students;
  • Graduate education and training on general issues regarding school safety, and their specific exposure to LGBTQ-related competency training;
  • Ongoing continuing education experiences regarding the safety and well-being of LGBTQ students;
  • Attitudes and beliefs related to LGBTQ issues in schools;
  • Self-efficacy regarding LGBTQ-related practices, i.e., their confidence in their abilities to engage in important tasks to support LGBTQ students, and
  • Specific efforts to support LGBTQ students, both direct, individual interventions, and school-level efforts to improve school climate and safety.

The report offers additional recommendations to build on the strong foundation of school mental health providers' support for LGBTQ students, including ensuring school counselors, psychologists, and social workers are adequately prepared by their pre-service training to serve LGBTQ students, are aware of the position statements and ethical standards from their professional membership organizations’ related to LGBTQ youth issues in schools, and have access to self-directed knowledge-building opportunities and easy-to-implement supportive resources, such as GLSEN’s Safe Space Kit.


About Study Partners

The American Council for School Social Work (ACSSW) advocates for the practice of school social work and supports school social workers in their service to students, schools, and families to overcome social, systemic, economic, and mental health barriers to student learning. ACSSW seeks to advance the practice of school social work by offering resources that support innovative practice, effective leadership, and applied research. As school practitioners, ACSSW advocates for social justice and school culture that is inclusive, empowering, accepting, and equitable and which provides all students with the freedom to learn in a healthy school climate that advances and promotes their best abilities and positive mental health. LGBTQ students, those who are in the process of coming out to friends and family, and/or those who may be experiencing harassment and marginalization due to their status, deserve the same. 

The American School Counselor Association (ASCA) is a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) professional organization based in Alexandria, Va. ASCA promotes student success by expanding the image and influence of school counseling through leadership, advocacy, collaboration, and systemic change. ASCA helps school counselors guide their students toward academic achievement, career planning, and social/emotional development to help today’s students become tomorrow’s productive, contributing members of society. Founded in 1952, ASCA has a network of 50 state and territory associations and a membership of more than 35,000 school counseling professionals.

GLSEN works to create safe and inclusive schools for all. We envision a world in which every child learns to respect and accept all people, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression. Each year, GLSEN programs and resources reach millions of students and educators in K-12 schools, via action at the national, state, and local level. Over nearly three decades of work, GLSEN has improved conditions for LGBTQ students across the United States and launched an international movement to address LGBTQ issues in education and promote respect for all in schools.

The School Social Work Association of America (SSWAA) empowers school social workers and promotes the profession of school social work to enhance the social and emotional growth and academic outcomes of all students. SSWAA advocates for school social workers as an integral part of the education of all children, connecting schools, families, and communities, and delivering mental-health, social-emotional learning, and prevention services.