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Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Questioning Adolescents: Victimization, Belonging, Safety and the Role of Supportive Adults in High School (page 2)

By and — Bullying Special Edition Contributor
Updated on Feb 11, 2009

The Protective Role of Adults at School

The safety and well being of all students, regardless of their sexual orientation, cannot be overlooked. Students cannot learn if they are preoccupied with their safety from peer harassment. Fortunately, as suggested by the findings of our study, the role of supportive adults at school can be a protective factor for LGBQ students. Also, it is important to highlight that youth are not simply born homophobic and they do not inherently see the world through the lens of heterosexism (a belief that heterosexuality is the only valid sexuality). Homophobia (fear and contempt for homosexuals) and heterosexism are beliefs that youth learn through their social surroundings. They internalize these beliefs after years of taking on the messages that society’s institutions disseminate. Little (10) explains that, whereas homophobia brings prejudice and potential cruelty, heterosexism keeps LGBQ youth muted and invisible. No doubt, school is one of society’s most influential institutions. Thus, as demonstrated through this study, the role of supportive adults at school can have quite a powerful impact on the positive experiences of LGBQ students. Teachers and other school staff need to have awareness and get training to assist them in being supportive of LGBQ youth (11, 12). In addition to their supportive role, adults at school can play a preventative role through allowing no room for tolerating homophobia as well as ensuring that the voices of LGBQ students are heard and expressed.

The role of supportive adults at school is vital for the mental and physical health of future generations. No individual, regardless of sexual orientation, should be denied his or her right to be safe from victimization and harassment.

References

  1. Williams, T., Connolly, J., Pepler, D., & Craig, W. (2005). Peer victimization, social support, and psychosocial adjustment of sexual minority adolescents. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 34, 471-482.
  2. Baumeister, R. F. & Leary, M. R. (1995). The need to belong: Desire for interpersonal attachments as a fundamental human motivation. Psychological Bulletin, 117, 497-529.
  3. Osterman, K. (2000). Students’ need for belonging in the school community. Review of Educational Research, 70, 323-367.
  4. D’Augelli, A. Pilkington, N., & Hershberger, S. (2002). Incidence and mental health impact of sexual orientation victimization of lesbian, gay, and bisexual youths in high school. School Psychology Quarterly, 17, 148-167.
  5. Espelage, D. L., Aragon, S. R., Birkett, M., & Koenig, B. W. (2008). Homophobic teasing, psychological outcomes, and sexual orientation among high school students: What influence do parents and schools have? School Psychology Review, 37, 202-216.
  6. Swearer, S. M., Turner, R. K., Givens, J. E., & Pollack, W. S. (2008). “You’re so gay!”: Do different forms of bullying matter for adolescent males? School Psychology Review, 37, 160-173.
  7. Rivers, I. & Nolet, N. (2008). Well-being among same-sex and opposite attracted youth at school. School Psychology Review, 37, 174-187.
  8. Russell, S. (2005). Beyond Risk: Resilience in the lives of sexual minority youth. Journal of Gay & Lesbian Issues in Education, 2, 5-18.
  9. Goodenow, C., Szalacha, L., & Westheimer, K. (2006). School support groups, other school factors, and the safety of sexual minority adolescents. Psychology in the schools, 43, 573-589.
  10. Little, J. N. (2001). Embracing gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered youth in school-based settings. Child and Youth Care Forum, 30, 99-110.
  11. Poteat, V. P. (2008). Contextual and moderating effects of the peer group climate on use of homophobic epithets. School Psychology Review, 37, 188-201.
  12. Russell, S., Seif, H., & Truong, N. (2001). School outcomes of sexual minority youth in the United States: evidence from a national study. Journal of Adolescence, 24, 111-127.
  13. Darwich, L., Hymel, S., & Waterhouse, T. (2008, March). Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Questioning Adolescents: Their Social Experiences and the Role of Supportive Adults in High School. Poster presented at the biennial meeting of the Society for Research on Adolescence, Chicago, Il.
  14. Community-University Institute for Social Research (2003). The cost of Homophobia: Literature Review on the Human Impact of Homophobia on Canada. SK: CUISR. Suggested Resources Baker, J. M. (2002). How homophobia hurts children: Nurturing diversity at home, at school, and in the community. Binghamton, NY: The Haworth Press Inc. Savin-Williams, R. (2005). The new gay teenager. MA: Harvard University Press.
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