Homophobia and Bullying Roundtable: June 27, 2008
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Dan Florell: Welcome to the first NASP Roundtable podcast. My name is Dan Florell and I am the NASP webmaster, and will be serving as the moderator for this Roundtable Discussion.
Today, we're going to be discussing the School Psych Review 2008 Special Series on Homophobia and Bullying.
Before we begin, I want to let you have the participants in today's roundtable introduce themselves. Laura?
Laura Crothers: Hello, My name is Laura Crothers. I'm an associate professor in the school psychology program at Duquesne University, and my research interests are in bullying and more recently in bullying of LGBT youth.
Kris Varjas: Hi, my name is Kris Varjas. I'm an associate professor at Georgia State University. My areas of interest are bullying and LGBT issues in schools and communities.
Dan: All right. Susan?
Susan Swearer: Hi, My name is Susan Swearer. I'm an associate professor of School Psychology at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. And my research interests are in the area of psychological and environmental influences that contribute to bullying behavior among youth.
Dan: OK. And Trish?
Trish Boland: Hi. This is Trish Boland. I'm a school psychologist in Chesterfield County Public Schools outside of Richmond, Virginia. And my research interests, what I do as a practicing psychologist, is mostly GLB youth, their development ‑ well, I want to be inclusive of transgender and questioning youth also, their social and psychological behaviors and development. Also crisis intervention and prevention in my schools.
Dan: OK. Well, great. Welcome everybody. What we're going to do in this roundtable, is we have a series of about 10 questions that we're going to go ahead and put out to our experts, here. They're going to go ahead and comment on those and provide any sort of insights they have into the field, given their expertise.
So, we're going to start off with the very first question. That's going to be how does homophobic or gay baiting change over time for students in school, and Laura is going to kick us off, here.
Laura: Thank you so much. I think it's important to recognize that socialization of gender‑typical behavior starts in very early childhood, with children quickly learning the norms for their sex, or gender. And recognizing quite precociously when behavior does not conform to gender‑typical standards.
That being said, I think that the research in this Special Edition refers to this, that you see a slow increase in gay‑baiting, verbal harassment relating to homophobia increasing through late elementary school and peaking in middle school, although it does continue on through the high school years.
I think that children, once children reach adolescence, they may become more flexible in their view of gender‑typical behavior, but those stereotypes or those beliefs do tend to persist, even into adulthood.
Dan: Anybody else?
Trish: This is Trish Boland from Chesterfield Schools. It's been my experience to watch, in pre‑school programs or kindergarten that they like to play in housekeeping, and there will be crossing gender lines in traditional, what they might do. Boys might dress up in the dresses or the hats and carry a purse. And it's very acceptable. Or they might walk down the hall holding hands or hugging each other, and it's very acceptable.
Once you get to first grade, that kind of stops. And I'm not sure why that wall goes up, but by then they're starting to figure out what their traditional roles should be and how they should interact with each other.
Laura: I think the social referencing increases throughout elementary school, which makes children more cognizant of the standards for behavior that their peers hold, and perhaps that makes them less likely to engage in that exploratory play that we'd like them to continue longer than they do.
Dan: OK. Thanks for that answer. I think, that's very informative as far as how it tends to peak more towards middle school, and I think, when you look at the bullying literature, you see the bullying in general kind of peaking at that time too.
Our second question deals with school climate. Because in the articles in the School Psych Review special section here, they keep coming up, time and again about school climate, and that it's a very important factor for LBGP youth. So, what can school personnel do to make a more inclusive school environment for sexual minority youth? Kris?
Kris: Thank you, Dan. I think this is a great question, and the Special Issue does a nice job of addressing school climate throughout each article. One of the things, I think, it's important for us to think about is school climate is negatively impact for victims in general, and what we're seeing is a negative impact for those that are being targeted for gender nonconformity issues, regardless of orientation, also having implications toward a negative school climate.
One of the things I really like about the Special Issue is it also talks about things that can help buffer LGBT children in schools and some of those things that can provide support for them. Two things that are brought up in the Special Issue are parental communication as well as adult support within the school environment.
Past research indicates that peer groups are a way to buffer the impact of negative school climate on LGBT youth who are being targeted.
School personnel, in general, I think, it's interesting. One of the things that I would like to challenge us, is also think about how we can support adults in the environment who identify as LGBT queue, and school psychologists in the role of advocating for those personnel that could then have impact for LGBT youth in schools.
One of the things we have been finding in our research has been that adults who work in schools who identify as LGBT youth feel like it's very difficult for them to advocate for LGBT youth for fear of repercussions from the adults in the environment and in administration. I think the school psychologist can have two roles of supporting not only the adults in that environment, and I'd love supporting those youth. Some of the things they can do is advocate for inclusive school policies, make sure bullying is addressed, looking at content and content being homophobic bullying.
They could do some education around bullying and also do some education about LGBT youth as far as orientation, social issues, some of the 'isms' that kids experience in the school environment. So, I think, there are lots of things that school psychologists can do as mental health experts in the schools themselves.
Dan: Good. Any other recommendations?
Susan: I think, Kris raises, this is Susan. I think, Kris raises some really important points, and one of the other points that we talked about is adults need to be really be vigilant in listening to these kinds of negative remarks and then doing something about it. So, really intervening when they hear verbal bullying and how important that is and how the verbal harassments and taunts really affect school climate and create a really negative school climate. And then it's incumbent on the adults in those environments when they hear kids say things to stop and say something and to intervene verbally.
Dan: Yes, I think, that's a very good point, kind of your teachable moments. And even if any individual adult doesn't feel like they can make a real difference. And are they dealing with a more hostile administration or conservative administration, even those actions about showing that it's not acceptable on a case‑by‑case basis, the message usually gets around and does improve the school climate for a wide variety of those who experience bullying. So, a very good point.
That does go into number three quite well. And the topic of sexual minority youth is typically a controversial one in the school setting. So, what type of recommendations would you give adults for overcoming resistance from both school administration and the community about trying to have a more accepting environment for that sexual minority youth? Trish?
Trish: Thank you, Dan. I think that education is the way we overcome any prejudice. And there are lots of good materials out there from a number of sources to do that. And I thought, I think, it was Jane Conoley in her commentary was very good about going into the preparatory of teachers and especially school administrators, and catching them there while learning is taking place about what they should be doing when they come out in their schools.
And in talking to them about how taking this research that we have and have had about homophobic bullying and how that affects students' attitudes toward schools and feeling safe there. That some of them even carry weapons to feel safe. School attendance and grades, which are all very important for schools having their credentials.
And the participation in non‑gender conforming school activities or even classes. Like some boys will stay away from literature or the girls stay away from hard sciences and math. So, how this just really permeates the whole school atmosphere. And also, to talk to them about the psychological well being and social behaviors, the at‑risk social behaviors students take when they're targeted by homophobic bullying.
I think, another way is to have parents... Most administrators I've found in schools and school boards are afraid of parents and what they're going to say if they bring in something that looks "gay‑friendly." But, there are also groups. Parents could form groups and include LGB friendly religious leaders too, who also people quote as that's going against the grain.
But, get these folks together and come in. And that has worked in school systems around the Richmond area to go in when they've tried to ban Gay‑Straight Alliances that concerned parent groups form with that.
But, there are a lot of good educational materials from the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN.org). Parents and Family of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG.org) also have lots of great educational materials you can go and get and bring in to do that training yourself.
But, I think, it's also important to tie in. All school systems have procedures and school programs around school safety and around bullying. There are lots of GLSEN and PFLAG and gay youth support groups around the country. And having those folks come in, having the parents and especially the youth come in and talk about their experiences.
When you're trying to make a point, it's good to bring in the broad research, and then bring in how it's locally impacting, and then bring in those personal stories from the youths themselves and from the parents, and how this has impacted them really is important when you're trying to make policy changes.
And also, this is just a school safety issue. And the wellbeing of children doesn't mean that we're talking about the acceptance of a gay lifestyle or even promoting that. This is a school safety issue and the psychological and social well being of children. I think, above all, have courage of your convictions.
Dan: That was very, very complete. And I think, especially all the nice resources there that you cited and the organizations that do have a lot of material. And I think, especially with having people come in locally, it's one of those you can dazzle them with statistics, but to really make a point, it helps to have it be real for them. And a single case can often times drive home a point better than mountains of data, unfortunately for us academics.
Did anybody else have anything else on that topic as far as overcoming any resistance that you might experience in the schools?
Kris: Hi Dan, this is Kris. I just wanted to add to that. As a university trainer, experiencing the level of resistance with our own school psych students and figuring out ways to address that.
We have a national association here. It's called ALGBTIC (Association for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Issues in Counseling). And I'm always amazed at the low number of students from school counseling and school psychology that are a part of that organization. And constantly trying to get school people involved in that, and to see LGBT issues as something that's important for them to know about, to learn about, to be able to educate others, and to be able to advocate for youths in schools.
And so, I think we have a number of levels that we need to be able to address: getting people involved and feeling like they can advocate or are willing to advocate. I'm constantly struggling with that as a trainer and then as a person who goes out and works in schools and works with teachers who are struggling with how to advocate for youths in schools.
Dan: And I think, that goes back to that prior point that the Conoley article really emphasizes as far as the training. And like any sort of discrimination, the research that shows you really do have to have exposure to that kind of topic to lessen the bias.
And what other way are they going to get it, unless other people and people who work in the schools can advocate for a better understanding of more sexual minority youth and more acceptance from a school safety standpoint? Of what that means to a large number of children in our schools, regarding their academic performance and even their future implications as their functioning in adulthood. So, very good points there.
Well, we're going to go ahead and move on then to the fourth question. And why would the effects of bullying seem to be more severe for those who are teased due to sexual orientation versus other factors, which Susan brings out in her article? And I'm going to let her answer, since she wrote the article.
Susan: Well, great. Thank you, Dan. One of the things that we're really intrigued by in the data collection in this school, which is an all male Jesuit high school in the Midwest, was the fact that it was very hard for us. So, I've got two points. One is a methodological point. And then the other is just a "what does it mean" point.
It was very hard for us to get the question through our IRB: "I'm bullied because I'm gay." We actually couldn't get that question in. The question that we were able to get passed was: "They say that I'm gay."
So, we actually don't have, and were not able to assess the participants' actual sexual orientation. So, I thought that was interesting from just how we assess these issues, and how really paranoid many school districts are about allowing researchers to come in and look at these issues from a research perspective.
So then, I'm going some of what I thought was really interesting was that we did not know and we say this is in the article really what these young high‑school boys sexual orientation was, and that despite that just taking that item that, "I'm bullied because they say I'm gay," they had much more detrimental psychological outcomes and climate outcomes than the comparison group who were boys who were victimized for other reasons.
So, I think, partly the climate, at least in this all‑male school and in reverse [inaudible] too, is that bullying somebody because of their sexual orientation, perceived or real, is just a way to get at the core or to really harm somebody verbally, and it's a very sensitive issue for many, many students.
I think, the fact that we found pretty significant psychological consequences from this form of bullying really speaks to the need, as we were talking earlier about education and working with adults and kids in our schools and communities, to teach tolerance and teach acceptance. I guess, that's the two points that I wanted to make on that.
Dan: Is there anyone else that would want to hazard a guess, I realize that there is obviously restrictions on how generalizable research is, but just knowing what you know from developmental aspects and such, why that might be that even being called gay, whether you are or not, has much more of an impact than, say, being called fat or some of the other ways that kids pick on one another.
Trish: Hi, this is Trish. I've got a couple of points on that. I can't remember which article it was, but it reminded me again that in newer society, homophobic is our last acceptable prejudice. That I think, affects the people in school when students see that there's a lack of support from school, from their parents, from their extended family and community, that they might if they were teased with something else, say if you're overweight, you have freckles, you wear glasses, you are redheaded, you might go home to your freckled, glassed, speckled, redheaded family, or if it's a certain race or something, there are certain religion, you've got your community to go home and have that support and understanding from... And they don't get that.
Most GLB students are coming from straight parents, and they don't have that support that they would if they were teased for something else. I think, there is more ostracization from peers than from any other form of prejudice when it's homophobic bullying that's going on. And I think that students too, they've just internalized homophobia and the feel to adhere to traditional sexual orientation as male/female behavior roles too, that just makes more of an impact on these young children.
Dan: And when responding, I was thinking myself about the issues of identity and how sexual orientation and the traditional masculine/feminine roles are so‑much pressure in adolescents, that being one of those driving forces for people in their development to adulthood, and not to want to fit in. I mean, adolescence is kind of a quintessence of fitting and being like everyone else, and as sexual minority youth you don't feel like you fit in with everybody else because there is this difference and it's really played out in the culture there.
Like Susan was saying, as far is it really attacks to the core of who these people are trying to figure out, who they are, and maybe why that finding that she had as far as having more deleterious kind of effects. I thought that was fascinating and I kept reading it on, and I was, "Oh, yes, very good."
Trish: I just want to say the point that really jumped out at me in all the research I've done over the years, and I can't remember whose article it was, it might have been in Susan's, was the students who were questioning that they were having more risky social behavior and more depression anxiety than those students who were identifying. And I'm wondering whether it's because they didn't know where to go for support, where GLB youth are finding more support for themselves even in online communities or from local support groups, than maybe the questioning ones. I'm not sure why that was, but it really popped out and struck me that it was the questioning youths that seemed to be having more problems.
Laura: And this is Laura, I'm sorry, if I could just add another thought that I had. I think that children are socialized at a very young age to recognize that affronts about sexuality are considered the unkindest cuts in terms of verbal harassment. It seems to transcend race, culture, class, and other demographic characteristics. I think that, again, as children move into adolescence, they're already primed to recognize that that indeed is a very terrible thing to be called or to be referred to and respond accordingly.
Dan: And I believe it was Rivers' article that really supports that the most ‑ the fact that these more aggressive peer groups tend to use the more homophobic kind of comments and to the point where it raises even people's individual prevalence of asking those types of questions to more of a group‑think‑pattern with that pressure and the fact that, "If somebody calls me that, I need to be that much worse back to them to deflect that." I thought that was really interesting.
Susan: I'm going to pick up on that sexual questioning youth comment. That was in Dorothy Tharinger’s article, and I agree that that was a really interesting finding and then in terms of what educators can do is really creating support in the schools for those youths, and I think that the lack of support, it really then creates a sense of isolation and, "Where do I go to talk about these issue?" So, I thought that was a really important finding for school psychologists.
Dan: I was going to say with the questioning and the fact that when the identity development, that somehow once you get a better idea of you are, that certainty serves as a little bit of a protective factor. You've committed to something and that doesn't make you as susceptible to a lot of the cultural viewpoints as far as condemning certain characteristics or not. I think there is some sort of assurance or certainty that you have when maybe you've made that decision that, "Yes I'm gay," or "I'm a lesbian and now I have a group that I can identify that and when people call me that I know they're trying to be mean or pick on me, but at least I know I have that support, " where if you're questioning it's like, "Well, maybe I am or maybe I'm not," you are more groundless, I guess, from what it sounds like.
Kris: This is Kris, I just want to add a point. The youths that we work with really don't respond well to the terms that older generations are using (like mine), and so they tend to want to talk about behavior and so someone who might identify in our questionnaires fall under term questioning is really someone as youth would say, "I'm attracted to both sexes," or, "I've been engaging in sexual behavior with both sexes." I think, it's interesting because when we apply terms on top of behaviors that kids are reporting that they may or may not agree with that term. So, it's interesting to talk to the youths about their responses, their feelings toward the terms, I think, we see in the literature a lot.
So, I think, that's again, in the Espelage article they said, just really interesting findings that we need to do more work on and ask to get more in‑depth information with kids about this, because it clearly seems to be an at‑risk group that needs for us to work with them with more. It's also interesting for us.
One of the things we are working with a group of kids right now we're getting ready for gay pride. One of the things that they are talking about as what they would like to work on is the divide within the gay/lesbian/bisexual/transsexual/questioning community. So, even the youths are identifying that there are divides and more or less support for people identifying in one way or another.
Trish: I think, it's important as a practitioner too is when if youth come to you and start discussing their feelings, their concerns or worries, is to, I always tell them, "You don't have to label yourself. You are going through a period of exploration." Some kids come in and say, "Yes, I'm very much this," and then two weeks later they're saying, "I'm not."
Trish: I just tell them, "Don't put yourself in a box, I'm not going to put you in a box, you don't feel like you have to live with yourself," and I think, that makes them more relaxed and more able to want to go out and just explore more, read more and learn more about where they are. I think, it helps with that developmental stage, to flow better.
Susan: An excellent suggestion.
Dan: I think that really is a good point. I thought that was a real good discussion there. I think, this next question will probably get a good discussion too, because as we go on, there's also the traditional kind of homophobic bullying, but now we have the rapid rise of technology and cyber‑bullying, and how has that really impacted the homophobic teasing, and is it likely to, say, increase the teasing given the influence of aggressive peer groups on individual behavior that Poteat wrote. Kris, why don't you go ahead and give us your take on that.
Kris: Thanks Dan. I'm going to throw out some issues and hopefully some people will chime in with me on this. It's interesting because we've just started doing some in‑depth interviewing with youths around cyber‑bullying and are actually also doing interviews with LGBT youths around cyber‑bullying.
One of those things that the article talks about is the influence of the peer group and how that then affects how they bully, the content of bullying towards individuals that they're targeting. It's interesting though because when the youth talk about their activity online, it's very individual focused. So, it'll be interesting to see if peer groups have such an influence and then when we move to this cyber‑bullying or this technology‑usage and it's so individually driven, what the difference is going to be with that.
One of the things that we've found that's been troubling in some way, but fascinating in another way is that our kids are engaging in what adults would refer to as cyber‑bullying behavior, but the children are not, or usually not saying it's cyber‑bullying. They're just saying it's behaviors that they're engaging in online that are extending from the real life relationships that they're just continuing online or that they're continuing with text messages.
So, it's going to be really interesting to see if we know more about cyber‑bullying, because we know so little about it, and now we're just starting to get some prevalence, we're just getting some information out there.
There are articles that suggest that LGBT youth may be more at risk because of this and it'll be interesting to see if that is indeed true and on top of that what we're also seeing is, online activity for LGBT youth has provided support, it's provided a way to get information about coming out, health, safety, safe sex practices in ways that children might not have been able to do talking to individuals.
So, it's a positive and negative that we're seeing with this increase and rise in use of technology. So, I'm looking forward to getting more and more empirical information about this and the impact on kids in general as well as LGBT youth.
Dan: I know, I've been doing some research on cyber‑bullying too and have been struck by some of the big media stories. If you go to the core of it, there is an LGBT issue, or they've been doing some gay‑baiting with the child over chatrooms and these social networking sites and things like that. Once you see somebody getting picked on in a chatroom, the unique factors of cyber‑bullying and the anonymity involved there may allow even more of that aggression to come out against those individuals than maybe you would see in real life or, I guess, well, real life is the best way to think about it versus virtual and one of the reasons I crafted that question was thinking about that and if it becomes even more severe because we're seeing the bullying behaviors tend to be more severe as far as the language used and the behaviors that are done on there.
Susan: Yeah, I agree, the kids say to us that cyber‑bullying is often more severe because there is this sense of anonymity, although I wonder if in the next five years how that will change, because I think schools are doing a much better job of educating kids about actually you don't have a lot of anonymity. You think you do, and I think, certainly cases like the Saint Louis suburb mom who posed as the fictitious boyfriend on MySpace story and that's a tragic story that happened. I just think more of those stories as they come out and kids are really realizing, "This is not as anonymous as I thought it was."
Laura: I think another problem is that cyber‑bullying enables the harassment to assume a level of permanency that verbal bullying doesn't have because when people blog, for example, there is a permanent record of what they've said on the Internet somewhere. So, the opportunity is for reascending and perhaps continued feelings of victimization could be uniquely associative with this kind of bullying and this form of bullying.
Kris: Yeah, Laura, I think, those are great points and it's interesting because when we're talking to the youths, one of the things that they're saying is it's easier to block it, it's easier to erase, it's easier to stop it because you do have control over that. So, it's going to be interesting to see the negative and the positive side as we're learning more and more about this.
One of the things that we found after doing, I think, an administration of about 460 surveys to a middle school was kids were reporting that even if they were involved in cyber‑victimization, they did not feel less safe at school. So, it wasn't making their school, it wasn’t being brought to school in the way that we were thinking that kids would be doing that. We were thinking that if kids were being cyber‑bullied it probably was connected to school and therefore they would feel less safe in the school climate, in the school setting. Our initial findings are saying that that isn't true.
I know that there have been some other findings in the literature that may contradict that, but I think, as we get more and more information and to understand the phenomena, it's going to be interesting for us to figure out how to intervene and how to protect kids.
Dan: Good points there. I think, it's going to be something as researchers and as a field will be startling because technology does change so quickly too. Two or three years ago who would have talked about social networking and YouTube and all of the other things that now go on that are an extension of things that have happened, but not quite what the world‑wide audience and having all the major news outlets cover.
So, what we're going to focus on with the next couple of questions is really on what we can do to help out the sexual minority youths out there. Parent support with the Espelage article has really been shown to buffer the stress of homophobic teasing. And so, as school psychologists or other school personnel, what advice can they give to parents who have a child who is LGBTQ? And, let’s see, Trish, I think, you were going to take that one.
Trish: Yes, thank you Dan. Again, I think, educating ourselves, I know I stress education a lot but that's how you overcome a lot of these problems. I think one of the things that we have to do as school personnel is understand the coming out process that the parents go through and support them through that. So, we need to do some reading and understand those steps that they go through. Students are going through steps but parents are also going through that, and to encourage them to also do some reading, there are lots of great books on there for parents to read on how their children are going through developmental steps in their coming out process.
And the issues that they're facing in schools with the different types of harassment and bullying and the effect that that has on them, so they know how important it is for them to be involved and be supportive. And to show them this research, that when you intervene, when you're there for them that their risky social behavior and their psychological outcomes are better.
And also encourage parents that there are a lot of local people, like "Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays" a lot of local chapters. And they have a fantastic website with lots of good information for them to look at too.
Once parents get that behind them and they're feeling a little bit more sure of themselves, or more empowered, then to have them and encourage them to contact school board members on those one‑to‑one, because that really makes a difference. It's hard when you stand up there and you want to talk in front of the whole school where there are hundreds of people there.
But, if you make these individual visits to the school board members and to the school administrators and talk to them about their concern about the safety and psychological and social welfare of their children and those personal stories and then put it on the line and say, "And what are you going to do about it?" That would really be a helpful step for them to take.
Dan: Other advice for school personnel?
Susan: This is Susan. I think a really great resource is called "It's Elementary" on talking about gay issues in school. It's a DVD and a curriculum guide that, I think, is very helpful in terms of thinking through these issues. It's a good resource for parents and teachers. You can get it at www.groundspark.org and it's a really terrific resource.
Dan: We've already talked about this next question a little bit, but maybe we can get a little bit more in depth? The Conoley article really does emphasize, as we had been discussing earlier, about the programs and trainings that are necessary to increase awareness for teachers and principals regarding sexual minority youth issues.
My question really is, do we know some more specific types of programs out there, other than maybe the ones that we just mentioned?
Trish: I think Groundspark has several DVD's out there that are available also that incorporate different families and adolescents. If you go to their website, I think, they have at least three and they just re‑issued "It's Elementary" too. I think, they updated it a little bit. So, that is a good resource, but there are other things too.
Kris: And the NASP GLB Committee has just written the resources that are much more web‑based and targeted for school personnel as well as parents, and that'll be available online.
Dan: Good. I think, the take‑home message as far as the training sounds like, for the school personnel, you do have to be an advocate for creating a safe school environment. And given what we know from the articles in this particular issue, obviously the sexual minority youths or those who are questioning are at particular risk. And it's a really a safety issue and the ability to do well on academics.
And so really maybe taking a more proactive approach and looking for these types of resources and reading up so that you can create a better climate for all these students.
Trish: I think, GLSEN, in their research ‑ I can't quote the year or whatever ‑ but they looked at how LGB students who had supportive school environments and those who did not, how it affected their school attendance and their grades.
And those are, again, schools look at bottom lines and they have to look, are they accredited? All school are struggling toward accreditation, and part of that is you SOL, your standards of learning scores, your graduation rates, your school attendance, and how your students are just doing grades‑wise.
And more research is along that line, but I think, there is some out there. And I think that when you bring that in and you're talking to your people who are policy makers, you need to point that out to them.
Dan: Yes. Grades and attendance always talk. I think that's a very good point.
Getting to our last couple of questions here, because we are getting into the last few minutes of our podcast. In the Tharinger article, she really goes beyond just what's going on and trying to explain what is the root cause of this homophobic kind of teasing and bullying.
And I know we discussed that in some of the earlier questions in this roundtable, but how would understanding those types of things really help translate to feasible and applicable interventions. Because I know, a lot of times practitioners, when they look at School Psych review ‑ and we have some wonderful theory out there ‑ but they're in the day‑to‑day kind of world where they want to be able to generate actual interventions.
And so, it's getting at, how does that understanding of that theory help practitioners get into these sort of interventions. I think, Laura had volunteered for that one.
Laura: Yes. Thank you so much. I really enjoyed reading this article, her article, because of that and her focus on the root causes, because oftentimes, we are speculating about what underlies behavior. And she goes into talking about the concept of hegemony, which essentially, as I understand it, is a very stereotypical or idealized form of masculinity that seems to be promoted in many schools.
Years ago there was an article done in the United Kingdom that talked about a similar concept, they called it a "macho male ethos" that was thought to contribute to competitiveness and social jockeying among a social hierarchy, and victimization in accordance with that.
And after understanding that as an underpinning of victimization, I think that it naturally translates to interventions, although I don't know how simplistic they are, because we're really talking about issues of school climate. Oftentimes, in order to change school climate, it requires systemic consultation that lasts anywhere from three to five years.
But, focusing our attention on, again, those issues of school climate and hegemony will lead us into developing appropriate interventions, but they won't be quick or easy, in my opinion.
Dan: Well, I definitely agree with that. Look how much trouble we're having with RTI, which is not nearly the level of controversial topic that this particular one is, and the fact that they talk about 5‑ to 6‑year climate systems level changing perceptions.
I think, it's a really good point, that we need to first be aware of what's the driving cause, and then really hang in there for a long term, not expecting like "Oh, well, this month we'll go ahead and get the attitudes turned around here and create a better climate." Rather, just a "grind it out" sort of approach that's going to take several years to get a system in place that creates a more accepting environment, a more open environment for all students.
Laura: I agree, and I think, also, that kind of system change requires that we face the community and work with stakeholders from the community in changing attitudes, because schools are products of the context in which they function. Without adjusting those issues in the families and communities, the changes are unlikely to be long‑standing.
Dan: I agree. Did anybody else have a comment on that particular question?
Kris: Hi, Dan, this is Kris again. I thought Deborah did a fabulous job with the article, and it brings us back to the idea of heterosexism in our schools, and how strongly that permeates US society as well as our schools. Just understanding, I think, for individuals who are not identifying as heterosexual, it's a difficult concept to understand and working with systems to understand how these messages are being sent to children all the time, about how what they're doing is outside what is the acceptable norm, and what that means to kids and their self‑esteem, how they're going to function, how they're identifying, and their mental health.
It's interesting to me that, even working with some of the systems I work with that I consider pretty open, I still get the "We don't have those kind of kids here." I still get those types of comments, or from the middle school, "Well, they don't know their orientation yet. We can't be talking about these types of things." Those attitudes, that are permeating and stopping whether we can intervene effectively with children are not, are things that we need to address.
Dan: I think, those are very good points. I think, it does bring a little more direction for the practitioners out there who want to know how they can utilize this, and to be effective, which really leads us to the last question that we're going to have for our roundtable, and that is: If a school psychologist is counseling a student who is LGBTQ, what would be the take‑away lesson from all of these articles that would allow them to more effectively help the student?
Kris, do you want to start with that?
Kris: Sure. Thanks, Dan. One of the articles I really love is by Lasser and Tharinger. The article focuses on what they call "visibility management."
When our adolescents or our youth start going through this idea of the coming‑out process, there's this idea of putting information out and not really thinking about the consequences of that information being put out, and who they're putting it out to, and how they're doing that. So, I really recommend that article by Lasser and Tharinger, Visibility Management in School and Beyond, as a way to think about helping kids make decisions about who they tell, when they tell, is it safe to tell, and looking for supportive people in their lives to make things easier for them as they're going through their daily process.
So, I would highly recommend that, and I agree with Trish completely: Education. If you have a child that's coming to you, I think, you need to get yourself educated. There are lots of resources that people refer to today that I think, are really helpful. There are more and more books that are coming out for high‑school‑age children; I think, there's less available for middle school, but hopefully that will change.
I think, it's just understanding what that child's life is going to be like, and then also connecting them to supportive resources outside of school.
Also, the special issue gives you a lot of information about how supportive individuals in schools and outside of schools are helpful to the positive development of LGBT youth. I think, that's important. If you can be a support for that child, that's going to make a difference, and we have data that supports that.
Dan: Great. Laura, did you have anything to add?
Laura: That was such a cogent and comprehensive answer, I'm not sure that I have anything to add. I think that, obviously, education of school personnel is so critical to enable them to point children and adolescents in the right direction regarding obtaining that support as they're questioning or identifying as a sexually diverse student. I think, the more work we do up front in that regard, the better the outcomes will be.
Dan: Great. Well, I think, from what I can tell on our roundtable discussion here, the real take‑away is realizing the support that these minorities need ‑ that we need to look at it from a more systemic and ecological viewpoint, and to try to make inroads in there; that education really is the key, and doing training regarding that, and if we can do that, we can make a very safe school environment for all of our students.
Does anybody have any last comments before we wrap things up here?
Trish: This is Trish again, and as a practitioner ‑ I think, the only one in the group ‑ I was very excited to get this issue of School Psych Review, because this is the one journal I always read, and I don't have access or time to usually read all the other journals that the authors are obviously reading and quoting. It was so great to have this all in one book, in something that I could read, and it was the first one I've read cover to cover as soon as I got it.
Dan: Me too!
Trish: So, thank you all for the message, because I was going to be a participant. I thank you all for that, and just to encourage our teachers and our people in school that all they have to do is go to their local large‑scale ‑ I won't name any names ‑ bookstore, and there are sections of books there. They don't have to go very far to find things for themselves, for their parents, or for their students to read.
Dan: Very good point, I think, and I agree. I found the articles very readable and very interesting, with all the issues that they brought up and all the findings that they had.
Is there anyone else who has any last comments?
I'll take it by your silence that we have said everything that we need to say, and I want to thank you all so much. I think, this went very well, and I think, a lot of really good questions were answered, so thank you.
This has been the NASP roundtable discussion on the School Psych Review 2008 Special Series on Homophobia and Bullying. Please come back for our future podcasts on other topics in the future here. Bye.