Bullying of LGBT students stems from lax harassment policy, professor says

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Madelaine Adelman, the co-chair of the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network, spoke at the Downtown campus Thursday about ways to recognize and combat bullying and bias against the LGBT community. (Jessica Zook/DD)

A large portion of bullying, bias and forced invisibility currently facing the LGBT community in schools stems from loosely defined bullying and harassment policies, the co-chair of the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network said.

Madelaine Adelman, who is also an ASU professor of justice and social inquiry, addressed a crowd of about 35 Thursday night as a part of the Humanities Lecture Series at the Downtown campus. She spoke about preemptive ways to recognize and combat bullying and bias against the LGBT community as well as the need to have equal treatment in schools.

“What matters tends to change over time, but the kind of silence or exclusion (and) invisibility of LGBT people in school is pretty consistent over the course of someone’s education,” Adelman said.

Studies done by GLSEN show schools creating systematic comprehensive anti-bullying and anti-harassment statutes assist in diminishing the possibility of isolation and an unwelcoming educational environment for those who identify as LGBT.

High levels of victimization cause students’ educational aspirations to go down, causing some to not seek higher education, she added.

“We’ve got enough problems here in Arizona’s education system to have LGBT bias be part of it,” Adelman said.

A 2009 study published discovered that 97 percent of K-12 students in Arizona routinely heard peers using degrading phrases, and 90 percent heard homophobic slurs.

The study also shows that 27 percent of students regularly heard staff make homophobic remarks.

Josh Kellison, an ASU clinical psychology doctorate candidate, attended the event to gather participants for his dissertation study about how bullying affects students raised by gay and lesbian parents.

Through his research, Kellison has found that children with gay or lesbian parents are victims of homophobic discrimination as early as age five.

“It impacts their social skills in terms of trying to hide their families,” Kellison said. “They pull (the negativity) into themselves, and it lowers their self-esteem and presents other issues.”

Another step Adelman cited in creating safe schools is reforming policies in Arizona such as the HIV/AIDS program, a platform GLSEN refers to as “no promo homo” because the policy, set by the Arizona Board of Regents, doesn’t allow instructors to “promote a homosexual lifestyle as a healthy one.”

She said that many teachers don’t understand the policy only applies to HIV/AIDS education and doesn’t restrict LGBT acceptance instruction.

Julia Miranda, a criminal justice sophomore, said she attended Adelman’s lecture in order to discover what she can do to help promote equal treatment within schools.

She said Adelman’s speech helped her “learn what’s going on in the community” and enlightened her on methods to “make (bullying) stop.”

The exclusion of the LGBT lifestyle in classroom curriculum often isolates the LGBT community and promotes conformity, Adelman said.

“There are all kinds of practices in our schools that tend to erase the kind of variation that we have in our society related to sexual orientation and gender identity expression,” Adelman said. “The things to do are those that create a climate where people can be and become like they want to be.”

Contact the reporter at tdmcknig@asu.edu