Finding 2: Overall LGBT school safety is linked to school safety strategies.
In prior studies we have shown that school safety strategies are linked to individual student reports of
personal safety, perceptions of safety for LGBT students, reduced levels of anti-LGBT harassment, and youth
resilience (or indicators of youth development). For this study we examined this finding at the level of
the school. We compared the percentage of students who reported LGBT school safety strategies and the
percentage who reported overall school safety for LGBT students.
We also found lower percentages of students say that they hear derogatory comments like “that’s so gay”
in schools where higher percentages of students said that they knew where to go for information and
support about sexual orientation, gender identity, or LGBT issues. In schools where 75% or more of the
students reported daily derogatory comments, only one third of students (34%) knew where to go for
information and support. Compare that to schools in which less than 75% of students reported derogatory
comments, more than half (57%) said that they knew where to go for information and support.
These results show that strategies such as teacher intervention and having information and support about
LGBT issues are important not only for individual students, but also these strategies influence the overall
school safety climate and are linked to differences between schools in overall LGBT school safety.
Finding 3: Overall LGBT school safety is strongly linked to school-level academic
Next we considered the characteristics of schools that were linked to overall LGBT school safety. We
combined the data from the student responses to the School Climate Surveys with publicly-available data
about school characteristics from the California Department of Education. We examined a range of factors
to determine which, if any, might be associated with overall LGBT school safety:
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The results indicated that the factors that are most strongly linked to differences in overall LGBT school
safety and frequency of anti-LGBT slurs are academic achievement of schools, as indicated by the state’s
Academic Performance Index (API) and the average SAT score.
This is a notable finding: some people may think that the economic status of a school or the ethnic make-
up of a school would predict overall school safety. However, it is not true that schools with predominantly
lower-income students and/or predominantly students of color are less safe. The most important factor is
the overall academic performance of schools.
This finding is important, but does not necessarily mean that school safety causes a school to have higher
academic performance. We cannot know the direction of influence: does high achievement promote safe
school climates, or are schools that are safer better learning environments for achievement? Nevertheless,
the results suggest that the strategies that make schools safer for LGBT students – and all students – may
be an important way for schools and school districts to support overall school achievement.