Strangers in good company? The accuracy of students' perceptions of peer attitudes toward gays, lesbians, and bisexuals
In Massachusetts and around the country, public secondary schools have designed support groups and other programs to improve gay, lesbian, bisexual, and questioning (GLBQ) students' sense of safety at school. There is a tacit understanding that public middle and high schools are homophobic, unsafe places for students based on a belief that the majority is homophobic or un-accepting of their GLBQ peers. This study investigated the criteria GLBQ high school students use to define their sense of safety at school, surveyed five student bodies about their attitudes toward GLBQ students and explored correlations between students' personal feelings of comfort and their perceptions of others' comfort. Generally speaking, students were, "Sort of comfortable" to "Very comfortable" with sexual minorities and would support a friend who came out as GLB. All students, regardless of self-identified sexual orientation, underestimated peer support for gays, lesbians and bisexuals. The most supportive students tended to be older, female, have higher grade point averages, value education beyond high school and experience support from an adult in their school, community or both.
Secondary school students;
Gays & lesbians;
0573: Public health
0708: Mass media