School climate for sexual minority youth: reflections by college-age adults on K-12 experiences

Date of Award


Degree Name

Ed.S. in School Psychology


School of Education and Health Sciences


Advisor: Elana R. Bernstein


The K-12 school environment is often a challenging and sometimes anxiety provoking environment for adolescents who identify as sexual minorities. Sexual orientation is a controversial topic; thus it is often difficult for schools to establish and implement policies for this population. Issues faced by sexual minority adolescents in school, include bullying, physical and emotional abuse, issues with acceptance, and dealing with the stress of coming to terms with their own sexual identity. Eight college students identifying as sexual minorities were interviewed in a focus group format to reflect on their K-12 school experience. The information provided in the current study illuminates difficulties, dangers and mistreatment of sexual minority youth in the K-12 school setting. The participants discussed experiences such as bullying and negative school climate. The pervasive heteronormative view present in many school settings often promotes anxiety and adversity for adolescents identifying as sexual minorities. Suggestions for improving school climate, including educating staff and students on issues related to sexual and gender identity, promoting a positive school climate for all students and providing interventions for students who are impacted by negativity within the school setting, are discussed.


Sexual minority youth Psychology Case studies, Sex differences (Psychology) in adolescence Case studies, High school environment Case studies, School environment Case studies, Social acceptance Psychological aspects Case studies, Psychology, School Psychology, Sexual Minority Youth, LGBT, School Climate, Gay Straight Alliance, Bullying

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