School Psychology Forum

School Psychologists as Allies and Advocates for the LGBTQ Community
Volume 8, Issue 1 (Spring 2014 )

Editor: Steven R. Shaw

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  • The R(ally) Cry: School Psychologists as Allies and Advocates for the LGBTQ Community

    Paul C. McCabe

    pp. 1-9

    ABSTRACT: The climate of acceptance of LGBTQ individuals is slowly improving in the United States, but many schools remain blind, biased, and unreservedly discriminatory toward lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer/questioning (LGBTQ) individuals. Educators have much work to do to make schools safe and affirming for all youth, including LGBTQ youth. In particular, school psychologists are charged with upholding professional ethics and best practices to protect the dignity and rights of LGBTQ youth and ensure an equal educational opportunity. In this paper, school psychologists are called upon to serve as allies to the LGBTQ community. School psychologists as allies try to understand more about the lives of LGBTQ individuals, including challenges associated with the coming-out process and the bias and discrimination that often ensue. School psychologists are encouraged to reflect on the benefits of privilege and consequences of belonging to marginalized/oppressed groups in our society, as well as the emphasis placed on heteronormativity and strict gender roles and gender binary, the intersectionality of identities, and the consequences of allowing LGBTQ discrimination to persist unchallenged. Steps to developing ally behavior are reviewed. The paper concludes with concrete strategies school psychologists and educators can do to make their schools more affirming and safe for LGBTQ individuals.

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  • The Importance of Challenging Hegemonic Masculinity in Preventing School Violence

    Eliza A. Dragowski & María R. Scharrón-del Río

    pp. 10-27

    ABSTRACT: In this article we argue that efforts to eradicate school violence should include an understanding of the complex social, cultural, and historical contexts in which violence is perpetrated. Specifically, we assert that the production and perpetuation of hegemonic/dominant masculinity plays a pivotal role in various forms of aggression and violence in schools. We summarize the literature that shows connections between expressions of dominant masculinity and violence occurring in schools, as well as research showing the pernicious effects of dominant masculinity on students and school communities. Finally, we propose that mediating school violence requires recognition, deconstruction, and resistance to the social norms surrounding veneration of hegemonic masculinity. We conclude with a discussion of challenges and some practical solutions for engaging in this type of work.

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  • School Belonging, School Victimization, and the Mental Health of LGBT Young Adults: Implications for School Psychologists

    Nicholas C. Heck, Lauri M. Lindquist, Greg R. Machek, & Bryan N. Cochran

    pp. 28-37

    ABSTRACT: This study investigates the mediating role of school victimization in the relationship between lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) young adults' feelings of high school belonging and current mental health (both depression and general psychological distress) outcomes. A total of 145 LGBT young adults were recruited from college LGBT student organizations to complete an online survey that assessed high school experiences and mental health outcomes. Bootstrapping analyses were used to test for mediation. Results indicate that school victimization mediates the relationship between high school belonging and depressive symptoms and feelings of general psychological distress in young adulthood. The results suggest that school victimization is a factor that could explain why LGBT youth report lower levels of school belonging and higher levels of depression and psychological distress, relative to heterosexual youth. Implications as they relate to school psychologists are discussed and recommendations for improving the school climate for LGBT youth are provided.

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  • Therapeutic Work With Gender-Variant Children: What School Psychologists Need to Know

    María R. Scharrón-del Río, Eliza A. Dragowski, & James J. Phillips

    pp. 38-55

    ABSTRACT: In the past 10 years, gender-variant (GV) children (children who do not conform to traditional gender norms) have received increased attention from scholars, mental health practitioners, and popular media. In schools, these students have been shown to be particularly vulnerable to violence and harassment, leading to myriad negative psychoeducational outcomes. School psychologists are often asked to work with GV students and to consult with families about the best therapeutic options in the clinical settings outside of schools. In light of the fact that clinical approaches to GV children are wide ranging and often contradictory in their assumptions and goals, this can be a difficult task. In this article, we begin by defining terms and definitions relevant to the discussions on GV students. We then review and summarize various clinical models of working with GV children and youth. We advocate a stance of awareness, thoughtfulness, and nonpathologizing of gender diversity when working with this student population. Finally, we discuss implications for school psychologists, framed within the structure of the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) position statement, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning Youth (NASP, 2011).

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  • Parents of Youth Who Identify as Transgender: An Exploratory Study

    Danielle Johnson, Jonathon Sikorski, Todd A. Savage, & Scott A. Woitaszewski

    pp. 56-74

    ABSTRACT: This article explores the experiences, perceptions, support systems, and coping strategies on which parents of youth who identify as transgender rely. Based on data gathered via interviews with parents of youth who identify as transgender and analyzed using the consensual qualitative research method, parental challenges and concerns about their child's school experiences and the resulting impact on the family are identified. The ways parents cope and find support in dealing with these challenges and concerns are presented. Finally, the implications of this study are outlined for school psychologists in their work with students who identity as transgender and their families.

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  • LGB Youth's Perceptions of Social Support: Implications for School Psychologists

    Sarah Kiperman, Kris Varjas, Joel Meyers, & Ali Howard

    pp. 75-90

    ABSTRACT: Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth may endure adverse experiences related to their sexual orientation and gender identity/expression. While social supports are commonly described as protective factors, few researchers have investigated this phenomenon for LGBT youth. The current study used thematic coding to analyze semistructured interviews with LGB adolescents to learn how participants view people as socially supportive and nonsupportive. Thematic analysis revealed four social nonsupport components (informational, tangible/ instrumental, affirmation, and emotional support) and three social nonsupport components (unmet expectations, negative perceptions, and negative interactions). These findings add to the general literature on social support as well as illustrating potentially important forms of social nonsupport for LGBT youth who experience bullying. The results from this study suggest a need to develop an integrated model of social support and nonsupport to have a better understanding of youth's experiences and to allow for service providers to develop effective prevention and intervention efforts. One finding with important implications for practitioners is that affirmation reflected students' perceptions that support was provided via various forms of positive feedback. School psychologists could provide support through advocacy by speaking up for LGBT students who are being bullied by others and supporting LGBT students in obtaining various leadership roles in the school. These preventive strategies can be used to reduce bullying toward LGBT youth and to promote the positive development and achievements of LGBT youth within the school setting.

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  • A Program Review of Middle School Gay-Straight Alliance Club

    Scott Quasha, Paul C. McCabe, & Sammuel O. Ortiz

    pp. 91-104

    ABSTRACT: This program review examined a middle school Gay–Straight Alliance (GSA) club within a northeastern suburban school situated in a large metropolitan area. The GSA was the first in the region to start exclusively in a standalone middle school. The review was accomplished through a staff survey comparing school climates for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer/questioning (LGBTQ) students at this middle school with a demographically matched middle school without a GSA club in the same region. Staff at the middle school with the GSA club also completed a semistructured questionnaire to evaluate further how the GSA club affected the school environment since its inception. Results indicated the middle school with the GSA club had a more welcoming environment for LGBTQ students in a variety of categories compared to the middle school without a GSA. The establishment of a GSA club and impact on the school are discussed.

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