Evidence of disciplinary bias against sexual minority females

LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning) pupils are coming out at earlier ages and becoming more visible in schools, creating a need for research on their educational experiences and outcomes. Exclusionary bias studies, which look at the proportions of pupils suspended or expelled, have historically focused on the bias against pupils of colour, yet sexual minority pupils face similar risks.

Joel Mittleman of Princeton University introduced a new data source for research on sexual minority pupils: The Fragile Families and Childhood Wellbeing Study. It is comprised of data on 4,898 children born in 20 US cities between 1998 and 2000, and at baseline was representative of all births at this time in cities with more than 200,000 people. The recent Year 15 follow up includes information on sexual orientation. Dr Mittleman used this data to relate sexual orientation to educational experiences and outcomes. He found that compared to teenagers solely attracted to the opposite gender:

  • Same-sex attracted teenagers are 29% more likely to experience exclusionary discipline.
  • This risk is stratified by gender, increasing to 95% higher odds of discipline among females. Yet based on parent report, Mittleman attributes only 38% of these disciplinary actions to behavioural problems.

This unexplained gap in discipline raises a red flag indicating that homophobia in schools is not gender-neutral, and warrants further research into the treatment of sexual minority status females versus males.

Source: Sexual orientation and school discipline: New evidence from a population-based sample (January 2018), Educational Researcher, Volume: 47 issue: 3

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