How gay-straight alliances reduce school bullying

Gay-straight alliances seem to create a greater environment of tolerance that improves school climate
By: | June 15, 2020
Gay-straight alliances seem to create a greater environment of tolerance that reduces bullying of LGBTQ students. (GettyImages.com/ FatCamera)Gay-straight alliances seem to create a greater environment of tolerance that reduces bullying of LGBTQ students. (GettyImages.com/ FatCamera)

When a school has a gay-straight alliance, students in the LGBTQ community report being bullied less often “for stigmatized identities other than those related to their gender or sexual orientation,” a new study has found

Some 73% of LGBTQ students reported suffering “biased-based bullying” about their body weight, gender, religion or a disability, according to a new study from the University of Connecticut’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity that was published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine. 

In there report, ore than half of the students—which the survey identifies as “sexual gender minority,” or SGM—reported being bullied about their weight while about one-third were victimized because of their race/ethnicity and religious affiliation.

This bullying led to increased health problems such as stress, sleep problems, depression and unhealthy weight control behaviors in LGBTQ students, the researchers wrote.


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“Sexual and gender minority adolescents experience multiple forms of bias-based bullying, which independently heighten health risk, and this study extends previous work on gay−straight alliances to highlight a wider range of potential positive contributions to adolescent health,” the researchers wrote.

Because the presence of a gay-straight alliance, or GSA, creates a heightened environment of tolerance that improves school climate, these organizations also help to reduces the harmful health impacts caused by a wide range of bullying behaviors.

“One possible explanation is a ‘diffusion of inclusion’ effect, where schoolwide acceptance of ( through GSAs fosters a broadly inclusive school climate that spills over to increase acceptance of those possessing other stigmatized identities or attributes (e.g., high body weight),” the researchers wrote.

State laws crack down on LGTBQ bullying

Laws in 21 states now prohibit bullying that targets sexual orientation and gender identity, according to the academic journal The Conversation.


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“Microagressions”—defined as unintentional or unconscious actions that cause harm—are now recognized more widely as bullying, according to The Conversation

A 2017 University of Minnesota study found that 3% of high school freshmen, sophomores and juniors now identify as transgender, “gender non-conforming” or “genderqueer,” the Journal reported.