All students in the US study – both gay and straight – reported benefits from attending a school with a more welcoming atmosphere

A study undertaken by Vanderbilt University, Nashville, has concluded that students who attend high schools with Gay Straight Alliances (GSA) are less likely to be bullied because of their sexuality or gender identity.

The result doesn’t just benefit LGBT students though, with lower levels of victimization and bullying reported across the board.

The results of the survey have been published in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence.

The meta-analysis looked at 15 separate studies, covering just under 63,000 participants.

Students who attended a high school with a GSA group were:

  •  52 percent less likely to hear homophobic remarks
  • 36 percent less likely to be fearful for their personal safety
  • 30 percent less likely to experience homophobic victimization

The study was carried out by Robert Marx and Heather Hensman Kettrey.

Commenting on the findings, Kettrey, a research associate with the university’s Peabody Research Institute, said, ‘Having a GSA can send a strong message to all students that their school is a welcoming place where all people are accepted and that homophobic acts will not be tolerated.’

Marx, a doctoral student at the Peabody College, is a former English teacher. He said, ‘When I was teaching I talked to a lot of parents who were afraid the group would be a distraction, or worse, some kind of conversion program or incentive for students to behave in a way they normally wouldn’t.

‘But the reality was just the opposite. With LGBTQ and straight peers supporting each other, students blossomed, grew and became more confident—and felt safer at school. I’ve seen GSAs have a positive impact on students’ lives, and having the data back that up was exciting to see.

‘Society makes it very hard to be a queer youth. I think it’s really important to understand the healing and transformative power of being a part of a supportive community. When we join together as allies and take a stand against hate and share our lives, it forms a whole that is greater than sum of its individual parts.’

Gay Straight Alliances are protected by the federal Equal Access Act of 1984. However, some schools – often faith-based ones – have barred them.

The American Civil Liberties Union has filed several lawsuits against schools that have prohibited the formation of GSAs or barred them from convening on school premises, and last December wrote an open letter to schools to remind them that if they receive federal funding, they must legally allow the formation of a GSA if students wish to form one. –