Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

School-based supports for LGBT and other minority youth: Understanding the roles of teachers, staff, gay-straight alliances, and anti-harassment policies
by Fischer, Sean N., Ph.D., New York University, 2011, 216; 3445288
Abstract (Summary)

Heterosexism and other biased behavior are common in U.S. schools, but little attention has focused on the importance of teachers, staff, school clubs, and policies in combating bias. Three studies are presented that address gaps in the literature.

Study 1 examined associations between gay-straight alliances (GSAs), school belonging, and academic achievement in a national sample of 1,730 lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth. The presence of a GSA predicted greater belonging and indirectly predicted greater achievement. In a subsample of 690 GSA members, GSAs' advocacy with teachers and staff predicted greater responsiveness to heterosexist remarks from these adults when school principals were highly supportive of the GSA, which in turn predicted fewer remarks in schools and greater belonging and achievement among participants. Members had greater school belonging and achievement when GSAs incorporated a strong, social support component.

Study 2 examined associations between supportive actions from teachers and staff and mental health and school outcomes among 1,504 LGBT youth who were victimized in the previous school year. Supportive actions included positively teaching about LGBT topics and intervening when hearing heterosexist remarks. Actions positively predicted greater belonging and comfort talking to teachers and staff about LGBT issues. Belonging mediated negative associations between actions and anxiety, depression, hostility, and interpersonal sensitivity. Comfort talking to teachers and staff about LGBT issues mediated negative associations between actions and mental distress (anxiety and interpersonal sensitivity). Supportive actions predicted youth more frequently reporting their victimization.

Study 3 examined 448 teachers' responses to a vignette depicting students using biased language and joking about violence against a student who is Black, gay, Muslim, or enrolled in special education in a between-subjects design. Teachers perceived anti-Black bias as the most serious and were most likely to report this behavior to school officials. Teachers perceived anti-special education behavior as the least serious and worthy of school officials' attention. The victim's identity did not predict whether teachers would correct students. Individual- and school-level predictors were modeled to explain differences. Individual-level seriousness strongly predicted responsiveness, and aggregate seriousness predicted reporting to school staff for all biases except anti-LGBT.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Shinn, Marybeth
Commitee: Coons, Ted, Russell, Stephen, Shrout, Patrick, Yoshikawa, Hiro
School: New York University
Department: Psychology
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 72/06, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: GLBT Studies, Educational psychology, Developmental psychology
Keywords: Bisexual and transgender, Bullying, Gay, Gay-straight alliances, Heterosexism, Lesbian, Prejudice, Schools, Teachers, Youth
Publication Number: 3445288
ISBN: 978-1-124-54441-0
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