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Safe Schools? Transgender Youth’s School Experiences and Perceptions of School Climate

Abstract

The magnitude of gender identity-related disparities in school-based outcomes is unknown because of a lack of representative studies that include measures of gender identity. By utilizing a representative sample generalizable to a broader population, this study elucidates the size of gender identity-related disparities, independent of sexual orientation, in school experiences associated with school connectedness and perceptions of school climate. Additionally, the inclusion of and comparison to results of a large non-representative sample allows for more direct comparisons to previous studies of the school experiences of transgender youth. The analyses in this study primarily draw on a sample of 31,896 youth representative of the middle and high school population in California who participated in the 2013–2015 California Student Survey (a subsample of the California Healthy Kids Survey, which includes the largest known sample of transgender youth). Over half the sample identified their sex as female (51.3%), and 398 identified as transgender (1.0%). The sample was racially and ethnically diverse: 30.7% identified as multiracial, 33.0% as White, 11.1% as Asian, 7.4% as Black, and 52.9% as Hispanic. Findings from multilevel analyses show that relative to non-transgender youth, transgender youth were more likely to be truant from school, to experience victimization and bias-based bullying, and to report more negative perceptions of school climate, though did not differ in self-reported grades. The findings have implications for improving school policies and practices to create safer and more supportive school climates for all youth.

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Acknowledgements

The California Healthy Kids Survey was developed by WestEd under contract to the California Department of Education. Administrative support for this research was also provided by grant, R24HD042849, Population Research Center, awarded to the Population Research Center at The University of Texas at Austin by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Amaya Perez-Brumer is supported by Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development T32 HD049339 (PI: Nathanson), and Russell by the Priscilla Pond Flawn Endowment. We acknowledge generous support from the Communities for Just Schools Fund.

Authors’ Contributions

JKD conceived of the study, participated in its design and coordination, conducted data analyses, and drafted the manuscript; APB participated in the design and helped to draft the manuscript; STR conceived of the study, participated in the design and coordination, assisted in interpretation of the analyses, and helped to draft the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Data Sharing Declaration

The data that support the findings of this study were made available from WestEd. Restrictions apply to the availability of these data which were used under license for the current study. The manuscript’s data will therefore not be deposited.

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Correspondence to Jack K. Day.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

The study was approved by the Institutional Review Board at the University of Texas at Austin and have been performed in accordance with the ethical standards established by the 1964 Declaration of Helsinki and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. For this type of study formal consent is not required.

Informed Consent

This study uses secondary data under license from WestEd. In accordance with Education Code 501938(b), and in accordance with school board policy, passive consent was used for administration of the surveys.

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Day, J.K., Perez-Brumer, A. & Russell, S.T. Safe Schools? Transgender Youth’s School Experiences and Perceptions of School Climate. J Youth Adolescence 47, 1731–1742 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-018-0866-x

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-018-0866-x

Keywords

  • Gender identity
  • Truancy
  • Victimization
  • Bias-based bullying
  • Academic achievement