School anti-harassment policies that include sexual orientation were not viewed as increasing feelings of safety for gay lesbian students, according to a recent article in the Journal of LGBT Youth.
Students viewed other school safety strategies as having a more protective effect against harassment, notably the practice of teachers stopping others from making negative comments or slurs based on sexual orientation, says the study.
School characteristics that gave students a sense of safety were the presence of a gay-straight alliance (GSA) and the availability of information about LGBT issues.
The online survey, which was distributed to high school GSAs, LGBT groups and resource centers, asked students about bias-motivated harassment in school based on ethnicity, gender, body size, religion, physical or mental disability, actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity.
This study focused on the question of whether the school was safe for students with LGBT parents. Responses were as follows:(1=Strong Disagree; 4=Strongly Agree)
The survey included 5 questions about strategies schools might use to promote supportive and safe environments:
“How often do you hear teachers or school staff stop others from making negative comments or using slurs based on sexual orientation?”
“Does your school have a harassment policy based on sexual orientation?”
“If you wanted more information and support from your school about sexual orientation, gender identity, or LGBT issues would you know where to go?”
“In your classes at school, have you ever learned about LGBT people, discussed LGBT history or current news events, or received information about sexual orientation and gender identity?”
“Does your school have a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) or similar club?”
Despite the results of the survey, the importance of anti-harassment policies as a gateway to creating safer environments should not be underestimated, the authors write.
In practice, such a policy is often the first of many interventions a school will take to improve its climate. In fact, it is often the creation of a policy that provides the groundwork for schools (and other institutions) to implement other safety strategies such as providing information, having a GSA, or training teachers to intervene in cases of harassment,” they write.
“Adolescent Perceptions of School Safety for Students with Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Parents,” by Stephen Russell, et al., Journal of LGBT Youth, Volume 5, Number 4, 2008, pp. 11-27.