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LGB students in secondary schools: results of a survey study in Flanders

Saskia Aerts UGent, Mieke Van Houtte UGent and Alexis Dewaele UGent (2012) 18th European Conference on Educational Research, Abstracts.
abstract
Social inequality in education is a frequently investigated subject in educational sociology. Educational inequalities that received much attention in the last decennia are the achievement gaps caused by socioeconomic inequality (Coleman et al., 1966), racial or ethnic inequality (Johnson, Crosnoe & Elder, 2001) or gender (Epstein, Elwood, Hey & Maw, 1998). Only recently attention is paid to the educational experiences and careers of LGB (lesbian, gay and bisexual) students. Educational inequality is often explained in terms of adjustment difficulties, caused by differences between personal characteristics and the expectations that are present in schools. When students’ characteristics do not align with the formal or informal structure of the school, their ability to negotiate this structure is compromised. In an effort to maintain their identity and avoid a loss of self worth, students who are stigmatized may disengage from their teachers, school, and the learning process itself. In the case of sexual minority students, these adjustment problems are displayed by the difficulty of non-heterosexual students to fit in a heteronormative environment. Previous research showed that LGB students often experience severe problems in school because of their sexual orientation. Many are confronted with bullying and discrimination, and they often do not feel accepted in a heteronormative school environment (Ellis & High, 2004; Buston & Hart, 2001). These experiences can have an impact on their well-being and mental health, but also on their school careers and future success in life (Mishna, Newman, Daley, & Solomon, 2008; Poteat & Espelage, 2007). Most previous research on the school careers of sexual minorities, however, is carried out in countries with little opportunities for LGBs, and high rates of homonegativity among the general population. We want to investigate if the impact of sexual orientation on school careers and experiences is different for LGB students in regions that are known to be rather LGB friendly, like Flanders, the Dutch-speaking part of Belgium (European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, 2009; Borghs & Eeckhout, 2009). On ECER 2012 we will present a summary of our findings on the four main research topics of our study: sense of school belonging, school motivation, school performance, and homonegativity in the technical and vocational track. Method: To investigate the situation of LGB secondary school students in Flanders, data from 1,745 LGB and heterosexual students were collected with an online survey. The data-gathering took place from October to December 2007. The online survey was distributed through different organizations and institutions, such as secondary schools, youth services and specific organizations and websites for LGB youth. 5.2% of our respondents are homosexual or lesbian, 4.4% are bisexual. The mean age of our respondents is 16, and 39% of our respondents are boys. We analyzed this data with multivariate regression methods, comparing the results for the LGBs and the heterosexuals in our sample. Expected Outcomes: The results show that the differences in school careers between LGB and heterosexual students in Flanders are relatively small. Lesbian and bisexual girls appear to experience a slightly lower sense of school belonging, lesbian girls are slightly less motivated to perform, and they have a greater chance to have failed at least one grade in secondary education when compared to heterosexual girls. We did not find any significant effects of sexual orientation for the boys in the sample. Explanations for the vulnerable position of lesbian girls are further investigated through in-depth interviews with LGB students. Our results also confirm that students from the technical or vocational track have more homonegative attitudes than students in the academic track. Religious differences, organizational membership and sex role ideology appear to have an impact on this homonegativity, but they do not entirely explain the differences between the educational tracks.
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author
organization
year
type
conference
publication status
unpublished
subject
keyword
school motivation, education, sexual minorities, homonegativity, coming-out, school failure, sense of school belonging
in
18th European Conference on Educational Research, Abstracts
conference name
18th European Conference on Educational Research (ECER - 2012)
conference location
Cadiz, Spain
conference start
2012-09-18
conference end
2012-09-21
project
FWO project G.0062.09
language
English
UGent publication?
yes
classification
C3
copyright statement
I have retained and own the full copyright for this publication
id
2998789
handle
http://hdl.handle.net/1854/LU-2998789
date created
2012-09-24 16:54:07
date last changed
2012-09-28 10:48:04
@inproceedings{2998789,
  abstract     = {Social inequality in education is a frequently investigated subject in educational sociology. Educational inequalities that received much attention in the last decennia are the achievement gaps caused by socioeconomic inequality (Coleman et al., 1966), racial or ethnic inequality (Johnson, Crosnoe \& Elder, 2001) or gender (Epstein, Elwood, Hey \& Maw, 1998). Only recently attention is paid to the educational experiences and careers of LGB (lesbian, gay and bisexual) students. Educational inequality is often explained in terms of adjustment difficulties, caused by differences between personal characteristics and the expectations that are present in schools. When students{\textquoteright} characteristics do not align with the formal or informal structure of the school, their ability to negotiate this structure is compromised. In an effort to maintain their identity and avoid a loss of self worth, students who are stigmatized may disengage from their teachers, school, and the learning process itself. In the case of sexual minority students, these adjustment problems are displayed by the difficulty of non-heterosexual students to fit in a heteronormative environment. Previous research showed that LGB students often experience severe problems in school because of their sexual orientation. Many are confronted with bullying and discrimination, and they often do not feel accepted in a heteronormative school environment (Ellis \& High, 2004; Buston \& Hart, 2001). These experiences can have an impact on their well-being and mental health, but also on their school careers and future success in life (Mishna, Newman, Daley, \& Solomon, 2008; Poteat \& Espelage, 2007). Most previous research on the school careers of sexual minorities, however, is carried out in countries with little opportunities for LGBs, and high rates of homonegativity among the general population. We want to investigate if the impact of sexual orientation on school careers and experiences is different for LGB students in regions that are known to be rather LGB friendly, like Flanders, the Dutch-speaking part of Belgium (European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, 2009; Borghs \& Eeckhout, 2009). On ECER 2012 we will present a summary of our findings on the four main research topics of our study: sense of school belonging, school motivation, school performance, and homonegativity in the technical and vocational track. Method: To investigate the situation of LGB secondary school students in Flanders, data from 1,745 LGB and heterosexual students were collected with an online survey. The data-gathering took place from October to December 2007. The online survey was distributed through different organizations and institutions, such as secondary schools, youth services and specific organizations and websites for LGB youth. 5.2\% of our respondents are homosexual or lesbian, 4.4\% are bisexual. The mean age of our respondents is 16, and 39\% of our respondents are boys. We analyzed this data with multivariate regression methods, comparing the results for the LGBs and the heterosexuals in our sample. Expected Outcomes: The results show that the differences in school careers between LGB and heterosexual students in Flanders are relatively small. Lesbian and bisexual girls appear to experience a slightly lower sense of school belonging, lesbian girls are slightly less motivated to perform, and they have a greater chance to have failed at least one grade in secondary education when compared to heterosexual girls. We did not find any significant effects of sexual orientation for the boys in the sample. Explanations for the vulnerable position of lesbian girls are further investigated through in-depth interviews with LGB students. Our results also confirm that students from the technical or vocational track have more homonegative attitudes than students in the academic track. Religious differences, organizational membership and sex role ideology appear to have an impact on this homonegativity, but they do not entirely explain the differences between the educational tracks.},
  author       = {Aerts, Saskia and Van Houtte, Mieke and Dewaele, Alexis},
  booktitle    = {18th European Conference on Educational Research, Abstracts},
  keyword      = {school motivation,education,sexual minorities,homonegativity,coming-out,school failure,sense of school belonging},
  language     = {eng},
  location     = {Cadiz, Spain},
  title        = {LGB students in secondary schools: results of a survey study in Flanders},
  year         = {2012},
}

Chicago
Aerts, Saskia, Mieke Van Houtte, and Alexis Dewaele. 2012. “LGB Students in Secondary Schools: Results of a Survey Study in Flanders.” In 18th European Conference on Educational Research, Abstracts.
APA
Aerts, Saskia, Van Houtte, M., & Dewaele, A. (2012). LGB students in secondary schools: results of a survey study in Flanders. 18th European Conference on Educational Research, Abstracts. Presented at the 18th European Conference on Educational Research (ECER - 2012).
Vancouver
1.
Aerts S, Van Houtte M, Dewaele A. LGB students in secondary schools: results of a survey study in Flanders. 18th European Conference on Educational Research, Abstracts. 2012.
MLA
Aerts, Saskia, Mieke Van Houtte, and Alexis Dewaele. “LGB Students in Secondary Schools: Results of a Survey Study in Flanders.” 18th European Conference on Educational Research, Abstracts. 2012. Print.