Schools and Legal System Mistreat Gays; New Study, Old Data?

Posted by on December 7, 2010

A newly published study says gay, lesbian, and bisexual teens are more likely to be harshly punished by schools and courts than straight teens.

According to the New York Times article on the study:

“The findings, based on a national sample of more than 15,000 middle and high school students, come at a time of heightened attention to the plight of homosexual and bisexual teens.”

While I find the study findings interesting, I am particularly intrigued by the data used to reach the findings.  Although the New York Times article references the timeliness of the publication, the data used in the study is quite outdated and more limited than the article communicates.

The Times article indicates the researcher used longitudinal data from 1994 to 2002.  But a closer look at the actual study summary shows the data involved a survey from 1994-1995 compared to 2001-2002. 

Given the original data year is over 15 years ago and the follow-up survey data years are eight years ago, one has to wonder: What would the data show if it was truly more timely, i.e., the last year being 2009 (or even 2007 or 2008)?  Has anything changed for LGBT students from 2002 to today (2010)? Are things worse?  Is anything better?

The federal government data on school crime and violence, also based upon surveys, has historically been outdated, too.  Now there is a story on school discipline (suspensions, expulsions, etc.) based on eight to 15 year-old data, yet in the article readers not catching the fine print might connect it with more recently referenced events. 

The bottom line question: Should current, real-time policy and funding decisions be made based on eight to 15-year-old data?

What say you?

Ken Trump

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2 thoughts on “Schools and Legal System Mistreat Gays; New Study, Old Data?

  1. Isabel says:

    Hello Ken,
    I think this data, while obviously old, accurately reflects today. Schoolage youth, counselors, school nurses confirm this data–I am in the field a lot, and I hear it on a regular basis. Enough with the surveys and data collection: time to be proactive and stick to policies and procedures that protect ALL students.

    1. Ken Trump says:

      Thanks for sharing your observations, Isabel. We, too, are out in the field regularly, but have not been hearing it as you described. Perhaps it is more of a conversation among counselors and nurses? I agree with you on enough with surveys. That’s why I am not in support of the skewed federal policy and funding proposals for more and more school climate surveys.

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