LGBTI and straight students feel safer when a school has a gay-straight alliance club, according to research.
Conducted by the University of British Columbia (UBC), Canada, the research found that with every additional year the school operated the gay-straight alliance, the teenagers felt safer.
Elizabeth Saewyc, professor of nursing at UBC and senior author of the study, told Phys.Org: ‘We found that students’ feelings of safety at school kept increasing over at least 14 years, the longest time a GSA has been in a B.C. school so far.
‘Schools that never had a GSA did not show the same patterns of improving school safety.’
Gay-straight alliances are student-led, community-based organizations that provide a safe space for LGBTI kids. They can also be run as gender and sexuality alliances, to provide additional support to trans and gender non-conforming adolescents.
Helping all school students
The researchers note that previous research shows when a gay-straight alliance has existed in a school for three years or more, there’s a lower rate of suicidal thoughts in both LGBTI and straight kids.
Published in Social Science & Medicine – Population Health, the study uses data from 135 schools who participated in province-wide B.C. Adolescent Health Surveys. They date date back to 2003.
1625 of the participants identified as gay, lesbian or bisexual, while 37,597 identified as straight. They reported if they felt safe in classrooms, toilets, hallways, the cafeteria, library, and outside the school property during school hours.
The studies were conducted every five years, surveying the adolescents in grades seven through 12.
Critics of gay-straight alliances have claimed their existence may cause confusion or harm.
In December 2018, teens running an alliance in a Newfoundland school claimed they were receiving death threats by other students.
The posters advertising the club were defaced with ‘straight pride’ flags. The club started at the beginning of the school year.