A new report revealed that an overwhelming 93% of LGBTQ+ students surveyed have heard homophobic language while in school, with more than a third admitting they experienced slurs almost every day.
And despite this high number homophobic incidents, respondents said teachers rarely intervened, with only 6% claiming that teachers within earshot stepped in to stop the use of the language.
The study, conducted by Jacqueline Ullman, associate professor of adolescent development, behaviour, and wellbeing at Western Sydney University, polled about 2,400 LGBTQ+ students aged 13 to 18 years at government, independent, and Catholic high schools across Australia.
The study also found that almost 30% of participants said they had either personally experienced or witnessed physical harassment directed at students who identify themselves as gender and sexuality diverse.
In article for The Conversation, Professor Ullman discussed how having a diverse-positive environment impacts a student’s sense of connection and personal investment in school, which are known predictors of academic achievement.
“LGBTQ+ students who went to schools where peers used homophobic and transphobic language more often and with less intervention from adults reported feeling significantly less connected to their school,” she wrote.
“They also said they were less confident their teachers could manage bullying and keep them safe. And they were less assured their teachers were personally invested in them and their academic success.”
By contrast, Professor Ullman noted that in schools that identified sexual orientation as a protected category in their harassment policy, LGBTQ+ students’ school-based wellbeing exceeded those of their mainstream peers.
“Unsurprisingly, LGBTQ+ students with higher levels of these forms of wellbeing were significantly more likely to say they would attend university,” she wrote.
Professor Ullman added that teachers’ behaviour plays a crucial role in shaping how gender and sexuality diverse students perceive themselves academically.
The survey asked students to indicate how true it was that their “teachers talk about same-sex attraction in a positive way,” with the response options ranging from “definitely false” to “definitely true.”
The research found that students who saw their teachers showing more positive attitude towards same-sex attraction also reported higher academic self-concept.
“These results show more training and encouragement should be given to Australia’s teachers to speak out against homophobic and transphobic harassment and violence in ways that educate students and reduce its incidence,” Professor Ullman wrote. “Such efforts, alongside positive inclusion, can enable LGBTQ+ students to reach their full potential.”