Canadian high schools with anti-homophobia policies or gay-straight alliances (GSAs) that have been in place for three years or more have a positive effect on both gay and straight students' problem alcohol use, according to a new study by University of British Columbia researchers.
GSAs are student-led clubs of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning (LGBTQ) youth and their straight allies. Their purpose is to provide support and advocacy and help make schools more inclusive.
"These strategies appear to be helpful not only for LGBTQ students, but all students," says Elizabeth Saewyc, senior author and professor with the UBC School of Nursing. "Interventions that can make schools safer for LGBTQ youth may actually reduce harassment for straight students, too. Schools should consider including GSAs and anti-homophobia policies as part of their alcohol and drug abuse prevention strategies."
In schools with established GSAs, lesbian and bisexual girls and heterosexual boys and girls, all were less likely to binge drink and experience problems associated with alcohol or drug use such as blacking out, car accidents, problems at school or family arguments about alcohol use. There were no significant effects for gay or bisexual boys. Both heterosexual boys and girls also had lower odds of binge drinking in schools with anti-homophobia policies.
Published recently in the journal Preventive Medicine, and funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the study used data from the British Columbia Adolescent Health Survey to look at whether students' odds of recent substance use were lower in schools with recent or more established anti-homophobia policies and gay straight alliances compared to schools without these strategies.
About the study
This study used the 2008 BC Adolescent Health Survey conducted by the McCreary Centre Society for grades 8 through 12, which involved 21,708 students in 280 schools in 50 districts across the province. Fifteen school districts had anti-homophobic bullying policies and 87 schools had GSAs.
Information about whether schools had a gay-straight alliance and/or anti-homophobic bullying policy, and the year each began, were mapped onto the student responses. Schools with GSAs or policies that had been established three or more years past, and schools with more recent GSAs or policies, were compared to schools without either GSAs or anti-homophobia policies.
In schools with GSAs started three or more years ago:
In schools with anti-homophobia policies enacted three or more years ago:
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