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More bullying of LGBTQ+ students reported in politically conservative districts

Students who identify as LGBTQ+ in schools with conservative voting records reported experiencing more bullying than their peers in more politically liberal areas.

Students who identify as LGBTQ+ in schools with conservative voting records reported experiencing more bullying than their peers in more politically liberal areas.

This is according to a study that appeared in the journal Analyses of Social Issues and Public Policy, and where American researchers explored the relationships among school district voting records in the 2016 US presidential election, bullying experiences in schools and mental health outcomes of LGBTQ+ youth in the state.

Done in the US, this may seem distant to LGBTQIA people in the Philippines; but conservatism also wreaks havoc to LGBTQIA lives here. In June 2021, for instance, members of the LGBTQIA community in Ampatuan, Maguindanao were shaved in public. The reasoning given behind the barbaric act was Islam’s supposedly anti-LGBTQIA stance.

The current study showed that LGBTQ+ students are at a higher risk for psychological distress and suicidality as a result of bullying, particularly in school districts that voted for former US Pres. Donald Trump in the 2016 election. Students in conservative voting districts also reported their teachers were less likely to intervene in instances of bullying than students who responded from more liberal voting districts.

For this current study, the researchers analyzed the responses of nearly 50,000 students in 8-12 grades to the 2018 Washington State Healthy Youth Survey. The survey asks students about a variety of factors including sexual and gender identity, bullying and whether or not teachers intervened during instances of bullying. In total, 20% or nearly 10,000 students in the survey identified as being LGBTQ+.

According to the analysis, when teachers intervened “almost always” in instances of bullying, LGBTQ+ students reported experiencing bullying rates that were nearly identical to non-LGBTQ+ students.

When intervention did not occur, LGBTQ+ youth experienced more bullying, and subsequently, more psychological distress and suicidality.

“This was especially prevalent in more conservative school districts where LGBTQ+ youth report less teacher intervention despite experiencing more bullying,” said Paul Kwon, professor of psychology at Washington State University and coauthor of the study. “Over 35% of youth in our study are students in a conservative leaning school district, possibly placing them at greater risk for more bullying experiences and higher psychological distress.”

To deal with this issue, the researchers recommended:

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  • Enacting policy that at minimum, complies with legislation prohibiting harassment, intimidation and bullying
  • For individual school boards, regardless of political leanings, to implement policy that goes beyond minimum protections for LGBTQ+ youth
  • That school policy should include explicit parameters for training and education for teachers regarding LGBTQ+ bullying as well as steps for teachers and administrators to intervene following LGBTQ+ bullying experiences
  • All school websites explicitly describe anti-bullying policies as they relate to LGBTQ+ youth using specific examples

“We also recommend educators discuss anti-bullying policy with students and families at the start of each school year, while concurrently highlighting LGBTQ+ identities, particularly in conservative districts,” Kwon said. “After all, students have little choice in the school they attend, almost no choice in the school district they belong to and are unable to vote until they are 18. Thus, they are subjected to the environment of the school and broader culture of the school district chosen for them.”

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