Skip to main content

It Offends Us Too! An Exploratory Analysis of High School-Based Microaggressions


Research on microaggression has primarily focused on the experiences of adults, as researchers have yet to extensively examine the experiences of school-age children. The few studies that exist suggest that microaggressions are problematic well before young people reach college or the working world. The current study adds to the microaggression literature through an examination of the experiences of adolescents holding minoritized racial and sexual orientation identities at a Midwestern public high school. Participants in the study completed a survey that assessed their experiences with microaggressions, the degree to which they found them offensive, and their experiences with peers and school personnel. Results of the study suggest that these microaggressive exchanges are relevant for high school students and that individual differences exist in the way that adolescents notice and label microaggressive verbalizations as offensive. Future research directions are discussed, as well as implications for those working directly with students in schools.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.


  • Allen, Q. (2013). “They think minority means lesser than”: Black middle-class sons and fathers resisting microaggressions in the school. Urban Education, 48, 171–197.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Banks, B. M., & Cicciarelli, K. (2019). Microaggressive classroom language and diminished cognitive functioning. Journal for Multicultural Education, 13, 276–287.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Banks, B., Adams, D., Williams, C., & Pina, D. (2020). Preliminary investigation of efforts to improve awareness of racial microaggressions on campus. Journal of Underrepresented & Minority Progress, 4(1), 20–43.

  • Baricevic, M. L., & Kashubeck-West, S. (2019). They matter: Sexual orientation microaggressions in high school. Journal of LGBT Youth, 16, 83–106.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Birkett, M., Espelage, D. L., & Koenig, B. (2009). LGB and questioning students in schools: The moderating effects of homophobic bullying and school climate on negative outcomes. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 38, 989–1000.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  • Cohen, J., McCabe, L., Michelli, N. M., & Pickeral, T. (2009). School climate: Research, policy, practice, and teacher education. Teachers College Record, 111, 180–213.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Crenshaw, K. W. (1989). Demarginalizing the intersection of race and sex: A black feminist critique of antidiscrimination doctrine. University of Chicago Legal Forum, (1989, 139–168.

  • Cyrus, K. (2017). Multiple minorities as multiply marginalized: Applying the minority stress theory to LGBTQ people of color. Journal of Gay & Lesbian Mental Health, 21, 194–202.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • DeSouza, E. R., Wesselmann, E. D., & Ispas, D. (2017). Workplace discrimination against sexual minorities: Subtle and not‐so‐subtle. Canadian Journal of Administrative Sciences/Revue Canadienne des Sciences de l'Administration, 34(2), 121–132.

  • Ellis, J. M., Powell, C. S., Demetriou, C. P., Huerta-Bapat, C., & Panter, A. T. (2019). Examining first-generation college student lived experiences with microaggressions and microaffirmations at a predominately White public research university. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 25, 266–279.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Galupo, M. P., & Resnick, C. A. (2016). Experiences of LGBT microaggressions in the workplace: Implications for policy. In T. Köllen (Ed.), Sexual orientation and transgender issues in organizations (pp. 271–287). Springer International Publishing.

  • Garber, K. J., & Grotevabnt, H. D. (2015). “YOU were adopted?!” microaggressions toward adolescent adopted individuals in same-race families. The Counseling Psychologist, 43, 435–462.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Gartner, R. E., & Sterzing, P. R. (2018). Social ecological correlates of family-level interpersonal and environmental microaggressions toward sexual and gender minority adolescents. Journal of Family Violence, 33, 1–16.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Grossman, J. M., & Porche, M. V. (2014). Perceived gender and racial/ethnic barriers to STEM success. Urban Education, 49, 698–727.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hall, J. C., Everett, J. E., & Hamilton-Mason, J. (2012). Black women talk about workplace stress and how they cope. Journal of Black Studies, 43, 207–226.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Harwood, S. A., Huntt, M. B., Mendenhall, R., & Lewis, J. A. (2012). Racial microaggressions in the residence halls: Experiences of students of color at a predominantly White university. Journal of Diversity in Higher Education, 5, 159–173.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Henfield, M. S. (2011). Black male adolescents navigating microaggressions in a traditionally white middle school: A qualitative study. Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development, 39, 141–155.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Keels, M., Durkee, M., & Hope, E. (2017). The psychological and academic costs of school-based racial and ethnic microaggressions. American Educational Research Journal, 54, 1316–1344.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lewis, J. A., Mendenhall, R., Harwood, S. A., & Browne Huntt, M. (2016). “Ain’t I a woman?” perceived gendered racial microaggressions experienced by Black women. The Counseling Psychologist, 44, 758–780.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lilienfeld, S. O. (2017). Microaggressions: Strong claims, inadequate evidence. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 12, 138–169.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Linville, Darla, “When words inflict harm: Documenting sexuality and gender identity microaggressions in schools for LGBTQQ youth” (2014). Georgia Educational Research Association Conference. 47.

  • Meeks, M. A. (2010). Racial microaggressions by secondary school teachers against students of color (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from

  • Munro, L., Travers, R., & Woodford, M. R. (2019). Overlooked and invisible: Everyday experiences of microaggressions for LGBTQ adolescents. Journal of Homosexuality, 1-33.

  • Nadal, K. L., Erazo, T., Schulman, J., Han, H., Deutsch, T., Ruth, R., & Santacruz, E. (2017). Caught at the intersections: Microaggressions toward lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people of color. In R. R. Ruth & E. Santacruz (Eds.) LGBT psychology and mental health: Emerging research and advances (pp. 133–152). ABC-CLIO, LLC.

  • Nadal, K., Rivera, D. & Corpus, M. (2010). Sexual orientation and transgender microaggressions; implications for mental health and counseling. In D.W. Sue (Ed.) Microaggressions and marginality: Manifestation, dynamics, and impact (pp. 217–240). John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

  • Nadal, K. L., Skolnik, A., & Wong, Y. (2012). Interpersonal and systemic microaggressions toward transgender people: Implications for counseling. Journal of LGBT Issues in Counseling, 6, 55–82.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Nadal, K. L., Whitman, C. N., Davis, L. S., Erazo, T., & Davidoff, K. C. (2016). Microaggressions toward lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and genderqueer people: A review of the literature. The Journal of Sex Research, 53, 488–508.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Parris, L., Banks, B. M., Christie, M., Lucas-Nihei, J. N., Lacey, H., & Swerdlik, M. E. (2019). School context. In S. Hupp & J. Jewell (Eds.), The Encyclopedia of Child and Adolescent Development. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell.

  • Pitcan, M., Park-Taylor, J., & Hayslett, J. (2018). Black men and racial microaggressions at work. The Career Development Quarterly, 66, 300–314.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Russell, S. T., Ryan, C., Toomey, R. B., Diaz, R. M., & Sanchez, J. (2011). Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender adolescent school victimization: Implications for young adult health and adjustment. Journal of School Health, 81, 223–230.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Smith, W. A., Mustaffa, J. B., Jones, C. M., Curry, T. J., & Allen, W. R. (2016). ‘You make me wanna holler and throw up both my hands!’: Campus culture, Black misandric microaggressions, and racial battle fatigue. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 29, 1189–1209.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Sue, D. W., Alsaidi, S., Awad, M. N., Glaeser, E., Calle, C. Z., & Mendez, N. (2019). Disarming racial microaggressions: Microintervention strategies for targets, White allies, and bystanders. American Psychologist, 74, 128–142.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Sue, D. W., Capodilupo, C. M., Torino, G. C., Bucceri, J. M., Holder, A., Nadal, K. L., & Esquilin, M. (2007). Racial microaggressions in everyday life: Implications for clinical practice. American Psychologist, 62, 271–286.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Thapa, A., Cohen, J., Guffey, S., & Higgins-D’Alessandro, A. (2013). A review of school climate research. Review of Educational Research, 83, 357–385.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Thurber, A., & DiAngelo, R. (2018). Microaggressions: Intervening in three acts. Journal of Ethnic & Cultural Diversity in Social Work, 27, 17–27.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Watkins, N. D., & Aber, M. S. (2009). Exploring the relationships among race, class, gender, and middle school students' perceptions of school racial climate. Equity & Excellence in Education, 42, 395–411.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Wintner, S., Almeida, J., & Hamilton-Mason, J. (2017). Perceptions of microaggression in K-8 school settings: An exploratory study. Children and Youth Services Review, 79, 594–601.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Woodford, M. R., Howell, M. L., Kulick, A., & Silverschanz, P. (2013). “That’s so gay” heterosexual male undergraduates and the perpetuation of sexual orientation microaggressions on campus. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 28, 416–435.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Woodford, M. R., Joslin, J. Y., Pitcher, E. N., & Renn, K. A. (2017). A mixed-methods inquiry into trans* environmental microaggressions on college campuses: Experiences and outcomes. Journal of Ethnic & Cultural Diversity in Social Work, 26, 95–111.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references


The authors thank Brooke Ferrero, Ph.D., Samantha Fillmore, and Kirstin Johnson for help with study preparation and data collection.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Brea M. Banks.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that there is no conflict of interest.

Human Participants

The questionnaire and methodology for this study was approved by the Human Research Ethics committee of Illinois State University (Ethics approval number: IRB 2018-47.

Informed Consent

In line with their university’s IRB standards, informed consent was obtained from participants prior to their completion of survey items.

Additional information

Publisher’s Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Banks, B.M., Cicciarelli, K.S. & Pavon, J. It Offends Us Too! An Exploratory Analysis of High School-Based Microaggressions. Contemp School Psychol 26, 182–194 (2022).

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:


  • Microaggressions
  • School climate
  • Adolescence