Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Psychological and Social Foundations

Major Professor

Linda Raffaele Mendez

Co-Major Professor

Shannon Suldo


adolescents, school-based supports, school functioning, sexual minority youth, social-emotional functioning


The purpose of this study was to identify school-based practices that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth endorse as ways for high schools to provide social, emotional, and academic support to LGBTQ youth. A diverse sample of LGBTQ high school students (N = 18) from one large urban school district in a southeastern state participated in individual semi-structured interviews and/or small group brainstorming sessions. Eleven individual interviews were conducted to gather detailed accounts of a) supportive behaviors and policies that youth had experienced in their schools, as well as b) supportive behaviors and policies that were suggested as desired supports that had not actually been experienced. Participants' sentiments were coded based on the source of support (i.e., teachers, school mental health providers, administrators, policies, resources), nature of support (i.e., proactive, reactive), and social context of the support (i.e., impacting single students through one-on-one setting, impacting more than one student or groups of students). Three brainstorming sessions that included a total of 13 students were conducted to gather additional ideas from youth on ways for schools and school staff to provide support. Frequency counts of individual interview data indicated that teachers provided more experienced and desired supports than any other school-based source of support. Of the desired supports that participants had not actually experienced, Proactive Supports Impacting Groups were the most frequently described Support Type for teachers, school mental health providers, and administrators. Content Themes emerged within Support Types (e.g., Proactive Support Impacting Individuals, Reactive Support Impacting Groups) capture sentiments that were shared across multiple participants' responses. Data from interviews and brainstorming sessions were also analyzed together through a constant-comparative reduction process, resulting in 162 Specific Educator Behaviors/Policies corresponding to 8 Big Ideas of school-based supports for LGBTQ high school students: (1) Using Respectful Language and Interactions with Students; (2) Providing Comfort, Assistance, and Advice Matched to Student Needs; (3) Facilitating Connections with Community Supports; (4) Providing LGBTQ-Related Materials and Information; (5) Allowing and Supporting School-Based GSA and Pride Activities; (6) Addressing Professional Development, Human Resources, and School Culture Related Issues; (7) Implementing Policies that Address Bullying and Harassment of LGBTQ Students; and (8) Implementing Policies that Respectfully Account for Students' Diversity.) Pragmatic implications for teachers, school mental health providers, and administrators are discussed.