LGBT Week: Jason Taylor on the Educational Context for LGBT Youth

My name is Jason Taylor and I’m a Ph.D. candidate in the department of Educational Policy, Organization, and Leadership at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. I study programs and policies related to educational access, equity, and success, particularly as they relate to higher education.

Among the tragic legacies of 2011 is the widespread publicity of suicides by LGBT youth. This publicity has undoubtedly elevated public awareness of the obstacles that LGBT youth face, and there has been a proliferation of national initiatives for LGBT youth such as the “It Gets Better Project” and “The Trevor Project.” There is also a growing movement to support LGBT youth in the educational context, partially because of an increased awareness of hostile educational environments and inadequate support systems for LGBT students.

Bullying, harassment, physical violence, anti-gay language, and other forms of homophobic victimization in the educational context are often determined to be motivating factors that cause LGBT students to take their own life. Research shows that educational contexts can be hostile environments for LGBT students across the P-20 educational spectrum, and these hostile environments are associated with serious negative psychological, academic, and in some cases life-threatening outcomes for LGBT students.

Fortunately, some educational institutions as well as state and local governments are responding with interventions to address these problems. For example, many K-12 schools have established gay-straight alliances. Others, such as public schools in Minneapolis, MN, have included LGBT students in anti-bullying and non-discrimination policies. In higher education contexts, many colleges and universities have established resource centers for LGBT students and have implemented targeted ally training and professional development for college and university employees.

I believe evaluators, particularly those working in the educational domain, can contribute to this growing movement. Provided that educational programs and policies expand and evolve to address the well-being and safety of LGBT students, we can offer an evaluative lens to improve program quality and effectiveness. Although there are promising educational innovations that support LGBT students, more program and policy interventions are clearly needed to provide safer educational contexts for LGBT students.

Hot Tip: Evaluators can contact local K-12 schools, colleges, and universities to ask about the evaluation of programs and policies for LGBT students.

Rad Resources:

We’re celebrating LGBT Evaluation week with our colleagues in AEA’s LGBT Topical Interest Group. Follow @aeaweb on twitter this week, or subscribe to the week’s Headlines and Resources list for more LGBT Evaluation items of note. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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