VANCOUVER — Schools with anti-homophobia policies and clubs are safer schools, and safer schools mean students are less likely to abuse alcohol, regardless of their sexual orientation, researchers at the University of British Columbia have found.
Senior author Dr. Elizabeth Saewyc said the study also indicates parents and school districts need not be worried about the harmful effects of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer programs on straight students.
There are “some schools, some boards of trustees or even parents (that) are concerned about whether or not we should have these kinds of policies,” Saewyc said.
“I would think that the research that we’ve just done and the evidence it provides should help alleviate some of those concerns around whether or not this has an impact, or at least is linked to better outcomes for not just lesbian, gay and bisexual teens but also for teens in general.”
The study, published recently in the Journal of Preventative Medicine, showed students at schools with anti-homophobia policies and gay-straight alliances tended to abuse alcohol less, regardless of sexual orientation.
“Nobody’s actually proposed using gay-straight alliances as an anti-drug strategy, or to reduce problem substance use in schools,” Saewyc said.
But “this study suggest(s) that both the anti-homophobia policies and gay-straight alliances may be important tools to include in the tool-kit … that schools use to prevent problem drinking and other harms from alcohol and drug use.”
Anti-homophobia policies may include anti-bullying codes that specifically mention harassment based on sexual orientation. Gay-straight alliances tend to be student-led organizations that provide a supportive environment for LGBTQ youth and their straight allies.
The study looked at alliances and anti-homophobia policies at 280 B.C. high schools. Of those schools, 23 had long-established groups, while 37 had long-established anti-homophobia policies.
Researchers analysed data from nearly 22,000 high school students who participated in the 2008 B.C. Adolescent Health Survey, which asked questions about sexual orientation, drinking and marijuana use.