Population Research Center examines lack of data for LGBT students

Brendalys Lebron

A recently published research paper by the UT Population Research Center argued the need for more data about LGBT youth in classroom settings.  

Titled “Documenting Disparities for LGBT Students,” the paper was published in the research journal Discipline Disparities: A Research to Practice Collaborative and involved collaboration among faculty from universities such as Indiana University at Bloomington and California State University Monterey Bay. Co-authored by UT sociology professor Stephen Russell, the paper asserted expanding the collection of data regarding Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) at the federal level is essential in order to make problems such as the discrimination and harassment of LGBT students easier to identify and address. 

“Specifically we need for federal and state agencies to include measures of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in various standard surveys and data monitoring efforts that have to do with education,” Russell J. Skiba, co-author of the paper, said in an email. “It is important because we know that LGBTQ students experience significant prejudice at school, especially homophobic bullying, but also are disproportionately likely to be suspended or expelled from school — for a range of reasons, but often due to the discrimination they face.”

Skiba, a professor of counseling and educational psychology at Indiana University, said there are consequences because of the lack of data regarding this topic.

“There are serious emotional and physical consequences of bullying and harassment for those who are its victims, and we have learned that suspension and expulsion increase student risk of academic disengagement and lower achievement, dropout and involvement with the juvenile justice system. It is critical that we have adequate data sources that enable us to address these serious consequences for LGBT youth,” Skiba said in an email.

Shannon D. Snapp, assistant professor of psychology at California State University Monterey Bay, said more extensive data would give increased visibility to the issues facing LGTBQ students.

“Right now our knowledge about LGBTQ youth is limited by the few data sources and scholarship that currently exists,” Snapp, who also collaborated on the research, said in an email. “With SOGI data inclusion, we could gain a clearer picture of their experience and implement relevant policies and practices to improve their education. Data are often driving forces for change in policy and practice, and when data is absent, it is too easy to dismiss the experiences of LGBTQ youth.”