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LGBTQ-supportive school policies, practices linked with better outcomes for heterosexual, minority students

LGBTQ-supportive school policies and practices are significantly associated with improved psychosocial health outcomes among both LGB and heterosexual students.

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LGBTQ-supportive school policies and practices are significantly associated with improved psychosocial health outcomes among both LGB and heterosexual students.

This is according to a study – “Examining the Relationship Between LGBTQ-Supportive School Health Policies and Practices and Psychosocial Health Outcomes of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Heterosexual Students” by Wojciech Kaczkowski, Jingjing Li, Adina C. Cooper, and Leah Robin – that appeared in LGBT Health.

This study integrated two data sources: School Health Profiles (Profiles), and the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS). As part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s Division of Adolescent and School Health (DASH) nationwide school health program implemented from 2013 to 2018, funded LEAs collected Profiles and YRBS data biennially: Profiles in 2014 and 2016, and the YRBS in 2015 and 2017.

The sample included 75,638 students from 117 schools in 16 LEAs. Overall, 8,347 (11.0%) students identified as LGB, and 67,291 (89.0%) as heterosexual.

NOTEWORTHY FINDINGS

For LGB students, the study found that having a gaystraight alliance (GSA) or similar club and facilitating access to out-of-school social and psychological service providers were significantly associated with lower odds of being threatened or injured with a weapon at school.

For suicide-related behaviors, encouraging staff to attend professional development was significantly associated with lower odds for attempting suicide, whereas increasing the sum of LGBTQ-supportive school policies and practices was significantly associated with lower odds for attempting suicide and being injured in a suicide attempt. For high-risk substance use, having a GSA or similar club was significantly associated with lower odds of ever using illicit drugs.

Meanwhile, for heterosexual students, having a GSA or similar club was significantly associated with lower odds of multiple violence victimization outcomes, such as missing school because of safety concerns. Identifying safe spaces was significantly associated with lower odds of forced sexual intercourse, whereas prohibiting harassment, encouraging staff to attend professional development, facilitating access to out-of-school social and psychological service providers, and increasing the sum of LGBTQ-supportive school policies and practices were all significantly associated with lower odds of missing school because of safety concerns.

Regarding mental health outcomes among heterosexual students, encouraging staff to attend professional development was significantly associated with lower odds of experiencing persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness. For suicide-related behaviors, having a GSA or similar club was significantly associated with lower odds for multiple outcomes, such as attempting suicide or injurious suicide attempt. For high-risk substance use, having a GSA or similar club and increasing the sum of LGBTQ-supportive school policies and practices were significantly associated with lower odds for ever using illicit drugs.

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BETTER LGBTQ SUPPORT

“LGBTQ-supportive school health policies and practices are associated with lower odds for violence victimization, adverse mental health outcomes, suicide-related behaviors, and high-risk substance use among both heterosexual and sexual and gender minority (including LGB) students,” the researchers stated, adding that “such findings may seem surprising, as such policies and practices are intended primarily for LGBTQ students. However, they also promote safer and more supportive school environments, fostering better psychosocial health among all students.7 For example, having a GSA or similar club offers opportunities for prosocial engagement and forming positive peer relationships for both heterosexual and sexual and gender minority (including LGB) students.”

As such, they recommend “increasing the sum of LGBTQ-supportive school policies and practices” to “lower odds for attempting suicide and injurious suicide attempts for LGB students and for missing school because of safety concerns and ever using illicit drugs for heterosexual students.”

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