Gay-straight alliances contribute to a safer school climate long-term

February 5, 2019, University of British Columbia
UBC professor Elizabeth Saewyc is pictured. Credit: UBC

Gay-straight alliances (GSAs) help make schools safer for students the longer they are in place, even among straight students, finds new research from the Stigma and Resilience Among Vulnerable Youth Centre at the University of British Columbia.

"We found that students' feelings of safety at kept increasing over at least 14 years, the longest time a GSA had been in a B.C. school so far," said Elizabeth Saewyc, a professor of nursing at UBC and senior author of the study. "Schools that never had a GSA did not show the same patterns of improving school safety."

The study, published in Social Science & Medicine-Population Health, uses data from 135 schools participating in the province-wide B.C. Adolescent Health Surveys going back to 2003, and used a new analytical approach to analyze the effects of GSAs.

Participants included 1,625 students who identified as gay, lesbian or bisexual, and 37,597 of their straight classmates. They reported how often they felt safe in six school settings: classrooms, washrooms, hallway, cafeteria, library and outside on school property during school hours.

Previous studies have shown a link between GSAs and lower levels of bullying, and better mental health for LGBTQ students and straight students alike. However, as Saewyc explained, most of these studies were based on a single point in time, and so cannot determine cause and effect.

"Randomized trials are the gold standard for testing interventions, but how do you persuade dozens of schools to be randomly chosen to start a GSA or not?" said Saewyc. "And it would be incredibly expensive to follow those schools for 10 or more years to track the effects on each new group of students. In contrast, our study draws from multiple years of existing data and uses new analysis to account for the same things that a random experiment does, with schools that had never had GSAs standing in for control groups."

The B.C. Adolescent Health Surveys have been conducted every five years to track the health of adolescents in grades seven through 12. By identifying which schools started GSAs and when, Saewyc noted, the researchers were able to connect that information to students' responses in each survey year.

They used a statistical technique, multiple group multilevel modelling, with large-scale surveys that have been repeated over time. This enabled the researchers to analyze data collected from different individuals from the same sites in different years.

"We know that it's hard to do well in school when students don't feel safe in school," Saewyc explained. "GSAs can contribute to a safer school climate long-term, and that could improve both students' achievement and their ."

Explore further: Gay-straight alliances in schools reduce suicide risk for all students

More information: Gu Li et al, Investigating site-level longitudinal effects of population health interventions: Gay-Straight Alliances and school safety, SSM - Population Health (2019). DOI: 10.1016/j.ssmph.2019.100350

Related Stories

School nutrition programs slow BMI gains in children

January 7, 2019

(HealthDay)—Body mass index (BMI) increases in middle school students can be limited by school-based nutrition policies but not by physical activity policies, according to a study published in the January issue of the American ...

Safe schools policy for LGBTQ students

November 4, 2010

Youth who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and/or questioning (LGBTQ) are vulnerable to bullying, harassment, compromised achievement, and emotional and behavioral health problems. A national survey ...

Recommended for you

Galactic center visualization delivers star power

March 21, 2019

Want to take a trip to the center of the Milky Way? Check out a new immersive, ultra-high-definition visualization. This 360-movie offers an unparalleled opportunity to look around the center of the galaxy, from the vantage ...

Ultra-sharp images make old stars look absolutely marvelous

March 21, 2019

Using high-resolution adaptive optics imaging from the Gemini Observatory, astronomers have uncovered one of the oldest star clusters in the Milky Way Galaxy. The remarkably sharp image looks back into the early history of ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.