• Gay-straight alliances. Establishing a gay-straight alliance
collaborate on prevention and intervention efforts and address
(GSA) is another proven way to create a more welcoming
issues of prejudice that underlie the victimization that many
environment for LGBTQ students and promote a sense of
belonging. A GSA is a student-led group open to all students —
Building resilience in children is another area that is ripe
gay and straight — to promote peer support and educate the
for research, experts say. What’s needed there is a better
school community about LGBTQ issues.
understanding of the social skills kids are not learning at
Having a GSA sanctioned by administrators sends a message
home that make them vulnerable when bullied. In addition,
that victimization is not tolerated at the school, says Heck.
psychologists want more insights on the kind of support from
The GSA can take many forms. Some meet with a guidance
parents or peers that can promote resilience in children who are
counselor. Others function as a club during activity periods.
Some groups are charged with organizing school-wide events to
The bottom line is that any actions and policies that make
the school climate safer benefit all students, according to
In a study, Heck compared LGBT young adults (ages 18 to
research by Espelage and colleagues (School Psychology Review,
20) who attended a high school with a GSA with those who
2008). Kids, regardless of their sexual orientation, have lower
didn’t. Those who had GSAs at their high school experienced
less victimization — and better outcomes — than those who
levels of depression, drug use and truancy at schools that don’t
tolerate discrimination. n
didn’t. The findings suggested further that having a GSA may
offset the risks of alcoholism, depression and psychological
Eve Glicksman is a writer in the Philadelphia area.
distress among LGBT youth (School Psychology Quarterly, 2011).
Others have found that GSAs were useful in
helping LGBT students identify supportive
teachers and staff at their schools.
• School policies. Not surprisingly,
LGBTQ students at schools with
comprehensive anti-bullying policies (that
include protections for sexual orientation
and gender identity or expression)
reported fewer homophobic remarks and
less victimization than those without
these specific protections (GLSEN, 2011).
Students at schools with the comprehensive
policies were also more likely to report
bullying to staff and staff were more likely
to intervene when homophobic remarks
were heard. Only 7. 4 percent attend a
school with a comprehensive anti-bullying
policy, according to GLSEN.
“With increasing support for the
federal Safe Schools Improvement Act,
which provides policy recommendations
including an enumerated anti-bullying
policy, we are getting closer to creating real
change in the safe schools movement,” says
More research needed
What’s next? Poteat wants to see strategies
developed that would prevent prejudice
Confronting gender stereotypes
and homophobic teasing before it happens.
“We need to work on protective policies at
the system level to change that,” he says. In
the Journal of Counseling Psychology, 2011,
he writes, “Counseling psychologists should
Through a series of personal stories, the film “Straightlaced”
offers insights into the pressures teens feel around gender and
sexuality. To watch the trailer, go to http://groundspark.org/