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Criminal-Justice and School Sanctions Against Nonheterosexual Youth: A National Longitudinal Study
December 7, 2010 9:31 AM   Subscribe

A longitudinal study to be published in Jan 2011's Pediatrics (abstract, PDF of article) shows that GLBT youth are about 40 percent more likely to be punished by schools, police, and courts than their straight peers.

Summary coverage from the Washington Post, WebMD, and a different take from CNN.
posted by hippybear (27 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
"Nonheterosexual girls were at particularly high risk" is interesting. In my totally non-scientific observation, it seems like queer men tend to have it worse in areas like this.
posted by needs more cowbell at 9:41 AM on December 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Like this" = negative social consequences of being queer, not school sanctions specifically.
posted by needs more cowbell at 9:42 AM on December 7, 2010


My guess: homosexual self-identification in girls is seen by authorities as "girls acting out," and as part of a pattern of behaviors that need to be corrected. (The study does mention that this actually is an issue: kids with other problems falsely self-identifying as LGBT. They had controls in place to account for that.)

needs more cowbell: "areas like this"

Sounds like stuff is pretty bad all over.

Thanks, hippybear, for linking to the actual paper upfront. I'd love to see this become the standard for Metafilter posts about science.
posted by roll truck roll at 9:47 AM on December 7, 2010


Oop, should have previewed. I see what you mean now, cowbell.
posted by roll truck roll at 9:47 AM on December 7, 2010


Yeah - what I mean is that I can't help but notice that with, say, the recent spate of youth suicides, or most violence that makes it to the news in the US, it seems to be mostly people who were born male.
posted by needs more cowbell at 9:53 AM on December 7, 2010


Last year the Equity Project, along with a number of other groups, published Hidden Injustice (pdf) about LGBTQ young people in the criminal justice system. I highly recommend it, if this is something that you're interested in.
posted by gingerbeer at 10:04 AM on December 7, 2010


These are very interesting results, but I'll just point out that there are at least three different causal readings of these findings:

-- Institutional homophobia means gay/questioning teens get treated more harshly by the system (the line most of the media seems to be taking)

-- Gay/questioning teens suffer social stresses that may also lead them to engage in rule-breaking behaviors

-- External life circumstances, like early traumas or difficult family situations, make teens both more likely to be sexually questioning as teens and more likely to engage in rule-breaking behaviors.

I'd like to see a follow-up study controlled for family situation, other psychological conditions, socioeconomic class, and severity of the actual offense committed.

It'd also be really useful to see them tweak the criteria to separate sexually confused teens from people with an established homosexual orientation. It's my understanding that same-sex attractions or sexual questioning as a teenager may or may not correlate strictly with adult sexual orientation, and it'd be useful to know exactly which phenomenon we're studying.
posted by gallusgallus at 10:21 AM on December 7, 2010 [4 favorites]


The CNN article has me shaking with anger. Parents so ashamed of their child that he's forbidden from starting a gay-straight alliance group? And am I to understand that Katie Christie was kicked out of band? ("This cello looks too much like a female. Switch to clarinet or you're out.") I was under the impression that schools were supposed to educate our children in a safe environment. How does a kid learn if he spends his day over-analyzing his behavior to make sure he's not "acting gay."

My sexuality was well-known at my single-sex Catholic school and I wasn't treated any differently by my teachers or the administration. Honestly, it never occurred to me that educators would be contributing to the problem. I can't imagine why someone who can't (at least try to) treat everyone equally would want to teach high school in the first place. I mean, band class doesn't really offer many opportunities to force your moral agenda onto impressionable youth.
posted by giraffe at 10:21 AM on December 7, 2010


GLBT youth are about 40 percent more likely to be punished by schools, police, and courts than their straight peers.

I told you those GLBT kids are not to be trusted!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 10:33 AM on December 7, 2010


I wonder how much of this might be accounted for by the fact that any GLBT high school students who are "out" are already probably more rebellious than those who remain closeted.

Put another way, there might be a sample issue and you might not get the same result if you looked at people's stated sexual preferences 20 years after high school, then looked at their criminal justice and school sanctions in hindsight.
posted by pjdoland at 10:34 AM on December 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


I agree with gallusgallus that there are several possible ideas to consider here, although just having this data makes the consideration of those ideas far more useful and interesting. This would be a great addition to a research methods class or senior seminar psych course.
posted by bizzyb at 10:34 AM on December 7, 2010


They didn't even control for whether they'd come out or not?
posted by DU at 10:50 AM on December 7, 2010


The report I linked above uses a different methodology and does go through some of the reasons why LGBTQ young people are treated differently by the juvenile justice system, such as lack of family support and acceptance leading to incarceration rather than family placement. It goes on to make concrete recommendations for how to change the juvenile justice systems to get better outcomes for the young people involved.
posted by gingerbeer at 10:53 AM on December 7, 2010


roll truck roll: Thanks, hippybear, for linking to the actual paper upfront. I'd love to see this become the standard for Metafilter posts about science.

I think that most papers aren't available to the public, so the common practice (that I've noticed) is to provide a link to the abstract.

giraffe: My sexuality was well-known at my single-sex Catholic school and I wasn't treated any differently by my teachers or the administration. Honestly, it never occurred to me that educators would be contributing to the problem. I can't imagine why someone who can't (at least try to) treat everyone equally would want to teach high school in the first place. I mean, band class doesn't really offer many opportunities to force your moral agenda onto impressionable youth.

Sadly, this isn't the case (and the mindset) everywhere. A homophobic teacher or principal who tells a student to "be less gay" impacts not only the student(s) who understand who they are and embrace that, but also the kids who don't have the same confidence, others who pick on the outsiders, and students who are looking to authority for a way to relate to gay students.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:56 AM on December 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


For people who didn't read the news articles, the study controls for behavior. It follows middle and high school students into early adulthood and found that LGB teens who engaged in the SAME behaviors as straight teens were punished MORE harshly by schools, courts and (especially) parents.

The study considers:
"respondents currently in a same-sex relationship" (about 5% of the sample)
"respondents who identify as less than 100% heterosexual" (about 10% of the sample), and
"respondents who report ever having experienced same sex attraction" (about 15% of the sample)

I have no trouble at all believing that girls who don't conform to gender expectations are punished more harshly than girls who do. I don't think you have to contort your thinking by hypothesizing that those girls "act out" or "are rebellious" or "are troubled" in order to explain something so patently obvious. I personally was given demerits and made to stay after class in middle school, despite being a quiet straight-A student, for unclassifiable offenses like "disrespect" (because I forgot to bring my homework to class or read in class). MAYBE my sexuality and dress were not factors but I STRONGLY SUSPECT that they were.

I think it's also worth noting that more kids are coming out in their teens now than ever before. In the mid-to-late nineties you were already seeing the beginning of this trend.
posted by subdee at 11:10 AM on December 7, 2010


I wonder how much of this might be accounted for by the fact that any GLBT high school students who are "out" are already probably more rebellious than those who remain closeted.

GLSEN puts out a school climate survey every few years. From their reporting there is virtually no difference between the treatment received by LGBTQ youth and straight youth who are perceived to be queer. While it doesn't address the specific issues this study does, it does have some disturbing parallels:

● 62.4% of students who were harassed or assaulted in school did not report the incident to school staff, believing little to no action would be taken or the situation could become worse if reported.
● 33.8% of the students who did report an incident said that school staff did nothing in response.


That would indicate to me that outness doesn't have much to do with it if even straight youth are being harassed and many administrations turn a blind eye to it.
posted by munchingzombie at 11:11 AM on December 7, 2010


Parents so ashamed of their child that he's forbidden from starting a gay-straight alliance group?

Here in Nashville, formerly Baptist Belmont University has forbidden a group of gay students from starting a gay-straight alliance support group (along with firing the women's basketball coach this week for announcing to her students that she and her partner were going to have a baby).
posted by blucevalo at 11:13 AM on December 7, 2010


filthy light thief: " I think that most papers aren't available to the public, so the common practice (that I've noticed) is to provide a link to the abstract. "

I guess what I was really referring to was the tendency of posts to start with the link to the coverage in CNN or NYT or whatever. These stories often report conclusions that aren't really in the research. Starting with the abstract and/or paper, with the mainstream coverage below the fold, encourages a slightly more informed discussion.

posted by roll truck roll at 11:25 AM on December 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


GLSEN puts out a school climate survey every few years. From their reporting there is virtually no difference between the treatment received by LGBTQ youth and straight youth who are perceived to be queer.

I'm wondering more about the LGBTQ youth who are neither "out," nor even perceived by other to be gay. If that subset accounts for even 1/3 or 1/4 of LGBTQ youth, it could easily skew a study like this.
posted by pjdoland at 12:49 PM on December 7, 2010


GLBT youth are about 40 percent more likely to be punished

As far as I can tell, the study does not address transgender individuals.

I wonder how much of this might be accounted for by the fact that any GLBT high school students who are "out" are already probably more rebellious than those who remain closeted.

GLSEN puts out a school climate survey every few years. From their reporting there is virtually no difference between the treatment received by LGBTQ youth and straight youth who are perceived to be queer.

But this survey doesn't assess individuals who are perceived to be "queer." It relied on students to out themselves. I agree that those who were willing to out themselves while in high school in the nineties are possibly not representative of non-straight people generally. Things may be changing, but in the vast majority of the middle and high schools in the United States, there's a good chance you had to be a particular kind of person to out yourself in the mid-90s, even on a survey as part of a study.
posted by fugitivefromchaingang at 1:09 PM on December 7, 2010


On preview: what pjdoland said.
posted by fugitivefromchaingang at 1:10 PM on December 7, 2010


needs more cowbell: "Yeah - what I mean is that I can't help but notice that with, say, the recent spate of youth suicides, or most violence that makes it to the news in the US, it seems to be mostly people who were born male."

That is because male is normative and gets more attention.
posted by QIbHom at 1:15 PM on December 7, 2010


That is because male is normative and gets more attention.

Amen.

I am so sick of hearing about young male kidnapping victims.
posted by silentpundit at 2:09 PM on December 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


That is because male is normative and gets more attention.

I thought "dog bites man" wasn't news.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 10:02 PM on December 7, 2010


To clarify: LGBT/GLBT, queer, and LGB/GLB are not interchangeable terms. This study mentions transgender youth in its introductory sequence as being particularly at risk but does not actually have any information about them.
posted by NoraReed at 10:32 PM on December 7, 2010


Here's an additional study about the role of family acceptance in LGBT youth health. Media coverage.
posted by gingerbeer at 10:45 AM on December 8, 2010


My interpretation of the Nonheterosexual girls were at particularly high risk issue is that since boys are stereotyped as more troublemaking than girls, girls who are perceived as being more masculine are then assumed to also be more trouble. And as countless studies show, how one expects someone to behave greatly influences how you interpret their actual behavior.

Did any of that make sense?
posted by threeturtles at 1:10 PM on December 8, 2010


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