School Climate as Experienced by Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Students: A Mixed Methods Study on the Effects of Fair Act Implementation and Role Models

Platt, David B.
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students do not have the same experiences at school as their heterosexual and cisgender classmates. Whether the climate is characterized as less welcoming or hostile, either way it leads to disparate outcomes in the form of lower GPA (Aragon, Poteat, Espelage, & Koenig, 2014), decreased likelihood of post-highschool education (Bart, 1998), and threats to both emotional (Kann et al., 2011; Saewyc, Konishi, Rose, & Homma, 2014) and physical (Hatzenbuehler, Bellatorre, et al., 2014) wellbeing. This study began with a quantitative study of the climate, as reported by LGBT students, at 9 Southern California high schools. Survey data were analyzed using a t-test and an ANOVA to determine if there was a difference in school climate based on 2 independent variables: (a) implementation of the FAIR Act, requiring, among other things, positive representations of LGBT people in social science classes, and (b) the presence of out LGBT staff members. No statistically significant difference was found for these variables. Data were also analyzed using a multiple regression to determine whether any component of school climate served as a predictor of students’ positive affect. Here, a connection was found: students exhibiting self-protective behavior, like skipping class or avoiding restrooms and locker rooms, have a lower ratio of positive to negative emotions. In the second phase of the study, school staff were interviewed. As they shared their interpretation of the quantitative results and their efforts to improve school climate, a unifying idea emerged: school climate can improve over time with consistent, deliberate effort from the entire school community.