Health & Fitness

Lesbian and bi girls at greater risk for school discipline, according to study

Teen girls who are attracted to other girls are more likely than other students to be suspended or expelled from school.


Teen girls who are attracted to other girls are more likely than other students to be suspended or expelled from school.

This is according to Joel Mittleman, a Ph.D. candidate in sociology at Princeton University, in “Sexual Orientation and School Discipline: New Evidence from a Population-Based Sample,” a study that was published in the journal Educational Researcher.

Mittleman used the results from the Fragile Families and Childhood Wellbeing Study, a population-based survey of children born in American cities between 1998 and 2000, where roughly three-quarters of whom were born to unmarried parents. Fragile Families is a joint effort by Princeton’s Bendheim-Thoman Center for Research on Child Wellbeing and the Center for Health and Wellbeing, and Columbia University’s Columbia Population Research Center and National Center for Children and Families.

After analyzing the data on hand, Mittleman found that same-sex attracted teens have 29% higher odds of experiencing exclusionary discipline. Broken down by sex, the disparity is greater, with girls experiencing 95% higher odds of discipline while there was no apparent discipline risk for boys.

Mittleman estimated that only 38% of the girls’ discipline rates can be explained by parent-reported behavioral problems, while the rest may be because these students faced discriminatory treatment. It goes without saying that these results suggest that sexual orientation itself may shape teens’ experiences in very different ways for girls versus boys.

As it is, the risk for sexual minorities to experience exclusionary discipline is already documented. For instance, teens in same-sex couples often report being punished for public displays of affection though other who do the same couples are not.

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Mittleman, therefore, suggested for further research to be conducted to explore differences in how discipline is meted out to same-sex attracted boys and girls.

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