A new five-year study led by Prof. Elizabeth Saewyc at the University of British Columbia is being launched to see just how effective school and community programs are in reducing bullying of LGBTQ and straight youth. The study is funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health and Research (CIHR).
This is reportedly the single largest investment aimed at improving health and school outcomes for LGBTQ youth the Canadian administration has undertaken.
The study will involve a number of co-investigators from 10 universities representing a number of Canadian provinces and U.S. states, with input also coming from ministries of education and health, national teacher and public health associations, school districts, and community programs that work with schools.
The study, crucially, will also take into account that there are many straight, gender-conforming children that are also targeted by this kind of bullying.
The researchers will document and assess the types of strategies that schools are using to foster connectedness and reduce bullying, and track trends in health and safety among youth. The team will also study the experiences of heterosexual teens who are harassed because people assume they are gay.
“Homophobia can affect anyone,” explains Saewyc. “In any high school, there are far more heterosexual teens than lesbian, gay, bisexual or questioning teens, and because of this, we have found half or more of those targeted for anti-gay harassment actually identify as straight.
“There isn’t much research about them, but what there is suggests they have the same health consequences as LGBTQ youth who are bullied.”
Prof. Joy Johnson, Scientific Director of CIHR’s Institute of Gender and Health stresses that it is essential for CIHR to support this kind of research. “We hope the results of this study will lead to measures that will help to make school a positive experience for sexual minority youth in Canada,” she says.
One of the key focuses will be on examining the strategies schools use to try and combat anti-LGBTQ stigma and to see if they are actually working. Identifying those with positive results, and also identifying which strategies are less successful, has obvious benefits for LGBTQ children and the wider school climate.
The study is funded by CIHR’s Institute of Population and Public Health and Institute of Gender and Health and will continue through 2016.
Canada has seen its own tragedies when it comes to LGBTQ youth suicide. Perhaps most widely reported was the case of Jamie Hubley, the son of an Ottawa Councillor. Jamie’s death prompted even Conservative Members of Parliament and staffers to participate in making an It Gets Better video. Watch that here.