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Addressing Barriers to Learning for LGBT Youth Alan Horowitz, Out for Equity, St. Paul Public Schools Annie Hansen, Ph.D., University of Minnesota.

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Presentation on theme: "Addressing Barriers to Learning for LGBT Youth Alan Horowitz, Out for Equity, St. Paul Public Schools Annie Hansen, Ph.D., University of Minnesota."— Presentation transcript:

1 Addressing Barriers to Learning for LGBT Youth Alan Horowitz, Out for Equity, St. Paul Public Schools Annie Hansen, Ph.D., University of Minnesota


3 Overview What is sexual orientation to today’s adolescent? School climate and experiences What you can do to make a difference Questions and answers

4 Policy ResearchPractice

5 Research Largely focused on Risk Mostly conducted by higher ed. Academics Little practical research Little conducted by youth Hardly any on sexuality in youth

6 Biology Behavior Belief Identity Gender Sexuality

7 Continuum Sexual orientation and gender identity are not dichotomous Today’s youth are more likely to identify as bisexual than homosexual Kids often self-identify as “queer or questioning” or “bicurious” Attraction ≠ experience ≠ orientation “Visibility management” Ongoing process by which people monitor the level of “outness” they express. Part of the difficulty with determining prevalence

8 LGBT youth in schools Risk factors and outcomes Several risk factors cited in research - also many negative experiences in school. Increased rates of anxiety and depression Higher incidence of suicidal tendencies, substance abuse, and dropout. High victimization related to Truancy Suicide attempts Sexual risk behaviors Lower GPA Lower post-secondary aspirations Victimization is the issue - not just identifying as a sexual minority.

9 From Teasing to Torment: School Climate In America Harris Interactive/GLSEN project Nationally representative sample: 3450 students, 1011 secondary school teachers 1/3 of teens have been verbally or physically harassed during the past year because of perceived or actual sexual orientation. Second in frequency only to appearance (way they look or body size) – 4/10 teens reported being harassed for this reason.

10 LGBT students are… Over 3 times as likely to say they feel unsafe at school Likely to experience harassment more frequently than their peers (90% vs. 60%)

11 2009 GLSEN School Climate Survey 72.4% of students heard homophobic remarks often or frequently at school. (82% of middle school students) 88.9% heard “gay” used in a negative way (often or frequently), and 86.5% felt distressed to some degree by this. 84.6% verbally harassed because of sexual orientatio; 63.7% because of gender expression. 40.1% physically harassed because of sexual orientation 18.8% physically assaulted because of orientation, 12.5% because of gender expression 52.9% harassed via text, , Facebook, etc. 62.4% did not report the harassment or assault, because they believed little or no action would be taken, or that the situation would become worse 33.8% who DID report an incident said that school staff did nothing in response.

12 Teachers need to intervene Less than 1/5 of transgender students said that school staff intervened most of the time or always when hearing homophobic remarks (16%) or negative remarks about someone’s gender expression (11%). Intervention in homophobic or negative remarks about gender expression reported to occur “most of the time” or “always” 17.6% and 14.6% of the time 42.3% of the time for sexist language & 57.6% of the time for racist language. And not contribute to harassment A third of transgender students heard school staff make homophobic remarks (32%; 23% for total sample), sexist remarks (39%; 26% for total sample) and negative comments about someone’s gender expression (39%; 28% total sample) sometimes, often or frequently in the past year.

13 In the past month… One-third of LGBT students & almost half of transgender students missed a day of school because they felt unsafe Twice as likely to miss school in the past month if experiencing high frequencies of verbal harassment related to sexual orientation or gender expression. Almost three times as likely to miss if experiencing high frequencies of physical harassment.

14 Protective factors for LGBT youth Social support: can be strongly related to school maladjustment, attitude toward school, and teachers Close attachment to parents, friends and school Connection to LGBT community and sexual minority youth. Positive school climate

15 In a uniquely supported group of students, things look a little different. Achievement, attendance and credit accrual comparable to a group of comparison peers Sense of connection to school comparable to comparison peers. Higher than average score in GLSEN study But… Focus groups indicate ongoing concerns about climate

16 “I’ve used words like that against people. And I’ve said things & done things that I seriously regret…And I knew what I was doing, the whole time. I knew my decision was going to be: either I call this guy a [derogatory term] or I’m gonna be out. It’s going to be over for me. And my life is going to be in danger.” “I do have like the fear of you know, if I come out to this person, will they not be my friend anymore? … What will happen if people in my class see like a pride pin or something? It’s always there, and I have friends who are totally comfortable with just being out, loud and proud. But I don’t have that comfort, and I think I have good reasons.” I think physically, nobody would beat you up because you’re gay, but I think if you’re openly gay at this school you’re gonna get tormented sooner or later.”

17 On the bright side, students also expressed an appreciation for supports in place. “Is there a need for GSA” elicited the only unanimous focus group response Students described multiple functions of GSA Place to go talk and “hang out” Provides a safe and supportive space for LGBT students and allies. Spread knowledge, change the school environment Show support for LGBT peers.

18 Student 1: “Part of why I’m here is because being older than pretty much all the other students who come, I know what it was like for them at their age, to an extent. Because I’ve already been through it. I know what it feels like to be 14, 15, 16 and gay. I feel like I help it in a way. Like instead of going home & doing the dishes or something for my parents, I’m here helping out other gay people & the odd straight person who walks in.” Student 2: “Doing the dishes for society.” Student 1: “Oh yeah. I’m doing the dishes for the GLBT community.”


20 Why Address LGBT issues in Schools? Optimize learning Develop a climate of fairness and respect It’s the law

21 Change Actions Staff Training Use inclusive, affirming, and gender neutral language Use the words “gay”, “lesbian”, “bisexual”, and “transgender” Identify yourself as an ally Know where and how to refer Confront hateful language Support the development of Gay-Straight Alliances Teacher development and willingness to intervene

22 How to Respond to Homophobic Language Appropriate Erroneous Pejorative Name It Claim It Stop It

23 “Respect for tiny and tall,Respect for one and all.” Announcements Morning Meetings Character Counts SOS Crossing Bridges Bully Proof Curriculum Terrific Kid Awards Peace Celebration Announcements Responsive classroom Fix-it plans Referral forms Class discussion Focus room

24 Hot Topics How are 7-12 graders challenging gender norms? Are they challenging gender norms differently than those in the past. How do we support gender queer youth in the bi-gendered American education system in practical way. How does the practice of prevention and intervention change in the age of electronic communities. The face of OFE participants reaches beyond LGBT youth. Non-conforming, ”outsider” youth seem to gravitate toward OFE activities. How do we define and serve this changing demographic while staying true to our original mission. Given the lack of research on sexuality in youth, how to we support developmentally appropriate experimentation of gender and sexuality. Is identification developmentally appropriate early adolescence.

25 Resources Bullying and anti-discrimination laws: The Minnesota School Board Association (MSBA) recently recommended policy change: US DOE Office of Civil Rights: info about anti- discrimination statutes: Minnesota School Outreach: Coalition to address issues of sexual orientation and gender identity/expression Out 4 Good: Out for Equity: Tons of resources on school climate and safety

26 Contact Info Alan Horowitz Annie Hansen

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