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Education, Gender

Effect of negative school climate on academic outcomes for LGBT youth

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Students identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender are at increased risk for absenteeism and a lower grade point average due to harassment and safety concerns in school, according to the 2009 National School Climate Survey. While many researchers have examined the psychological effects of bullying and harassment, it is also important to understand the impact of victimization on self-esteem, school attendance and education outcomes.

A 2012 study from New York University published in the Journal of School Violence, “The Effect of Negative School Climate on Academic Outcomes for LGBT Youth and the Role of In-School Supports,”  analyzes survey data relating to a sample of 5,730 LGBT students between the ages of 13 and 21 who had attended secondary schools in the United States.

Study participants were asked about the frequency of verbal harassment, physical harassment and physical assault at school during the past academic year as well as school attendance, academic achievement, self-esteem and their degree of “outness” at home and school. They also reported whether or not their school had a gay-straight alliance, anti-harassment policies, an inclusive curriculum, and other supportive structures.

The study’s findings include:

  • In-school victimization predicted decreased self-esteem and worse educational outcomes, specifically a lower GPA and increased absences. Self-esteem was positively associated with GPA and negatively associated with missed school. Therefore, in-school victimization is both directly and indirectly related to diminished educational outcomes.
  • The presence of a gay-straight alliance was related to fewer incidences of victimization but not an individual’s self-esteem or educational outcomes.
  • The presence of a curriculum that included positive representations of LGBT people, history and events was associated with significantly less in-school victimization and higher GPAs for LGBT students. However, such curriculum was not a significant predictor of self-esteem or absences.
  • An anti-LGBT harassment policy in school was associated with increased self-esteem.
  • The strongest predictor for positive outcomes for LGBT students was supportive educators. “Students who reported having more supportive educators were likelier to report higher GPAs and less likely to have missed school. Further, supportive staff might be especially helpful for students who are highly victimized, given the significant interaction between victimization and educators for missing school.”

The authors suggest that further research be conducted on the ways in which educators make a difference for LGBT students. “Such research would also help inform pre-service and continuing education for school staff on how to help create a safe and affirming school environment for these students.”

In related research, a 2012 report from Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society, “Bullying in a Networked Era: A Literature Review,” examines and consolidates the research findings of studies published between 2008 and 2012 and analyzes online dynamics in this area.

Tags: bullying, youth, children, gay issues, teachers

    Writer: | Last updated: January 15, 2013

    Citation: Kosciw, Joseph G.; Palmer, Neal A.; Kull, Ryan M.; Greytak, Emily A. The Effect of Negative School Climate on Academic Outcomes for LGBT Youth and the Role of In-School Supports," Journal of School Violence, December 2013, 12:1, 45-63. doi: 1080/15388220.2012.732546.

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    Analysis assignments
    Read the issue-related New Yorker article titled "Nethlerland."

    1. What key insights from the news article and the study in this lesson should reporters be aware of as they cover LGBT issues?

    Read the full study titled “The Effect of Negative School Climate on Academic Outcomes for LGBT Youth and the Role of In-School Supports.”

    1. What are the study's key technical terms? Which ones need to be put into language a lay audience can understand?
    2. Do the study’s authors put the research into context and show how they are advancing the state of knowledge about the subject? If so, what did the previous research indicate?
    3. What is the study’s research method? If there are statistical results, how did the scholars arrive at them?
    4. Evaluate the study's limitations. (For example, are there weaknesses in the study's data or research design?)
    5. How could the findings be misreported or misinterpreted by a reporter? In other words, what are the difficulties in conveying the data accurately? Give an example of a faulty headline or story lead.

    Newswriting and digital reporting assignments

    1. Write a lead, headline or nut graph based on the study.
    2. Spend 60 minutes exploring the issue by accessing sources of information other than the study. Write a lead (or headline or nut graph) based on the study but informed by the new information. Does the new information significantly change what one would write based on the study alone?
    3. Compose two Twitter messages of 140 characters or fewer accurately conveying the study’s findings to a general audience. Make sure to use appropriate hashtags.
    4. Choose several key quotations from the study and show how they would be set up and used in a brief blog post.
    5. Map out the structure for a 60-second video segment about the study. What combination of study findings and visual aids could be used?
    6. Find pictures and graphics that might run with a story about the study. If appropriate, also find two related videos to embed in an online posting. Be sure to evaluate the credibility and appropriateness of any materials you would aggregate and repurpose.

    Class discussion questions

    1. What is the study’s most important finding?
    2. Would members of the public intuitively understand the study’s findings? If not, what would be the most effective way to relate them?
    3. What kinds of knowledgeable sources you would interview to report the study in context?
    4. How could the study be “localized” and shown to have community implications?
    5. How might the study be explained through the stories of representative individuals? What kinds of people might a reporter feature to make such a story about the study come alive?
    6. What sorts of stories might be generated out of secondary information or ideas discussed in the study?