Effectiveness of School District Antibullying Policies in Improving LGBT Youths’ School Climate

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School-based bullying is a serious problem for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth. Previous research suggests that antibullying policies that explicitly prohibit bullying based upon a student’s sexual orientation, gender identity, and/or gender expression (SOGIE; i.e., SOGIE-inclusive policies) may improve school safety for LGBT students. However, most prior research relies on students’ perceptions of whether policies exist—which may be less reliable than more objective assessments—and represent only a limited number of states. The current study combines data from a study examining U.S. public school districts’ antibullying policies with data from a national survey of LGBT students’ school experiences (7,040 LGBT students from 2,952 unique school districts) to examine the relationship between antibullying policies and LGBT students’ safety and victimization at school. MANCOVA results indicated that LGBT students in districts with SOGIE protections in their policies reported greater school safety, less victimization based on their sexual orientation and gender expression, and less social aggression than students with generic policies or no/unidentified policies. We also found that LGBT students in districts with generic policies (i.e., antibullying policies that do not enumerate SOGIE characteristics) and those in districts with no/unidentified policy did not differ on most measures of safety and victimization. Findings suggest that antibullying policies explicitly enumerating SOGIE protections can improve LGBT school experiences and that generic policies may not sufficiently protect LGBT students from bullying and harassment.

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