New Research Has Important Policy Implications
LGBTQ Students at Greater Risk
WASHINGTON, November 22, 2012─Students who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or questioning (LGBTQ) generally are at greater risk than other students, above and beyond experiencing higher rates of victimization by bullying. Joseph P. Robinson and Dorothy L. Espelage, of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, report on these findings in the November issue of Educational Researcher, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Educational Research Association. In their research, they undertook to investigate the extent to which such victimization could explain LGBTQ students’ greater rates of suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts and unexcused absences from school. 

In “Bullying Explains Only Part of LGBTQ–Heterosexual Risk Disparities: Implications for Policy and Practice,” Robinson and Espelage found that LGBTQ-identified students were 3.3 times as likely to think about suicide, 3 times as likely to attempt suicide, and 1.4 times as likely to skip school as heterosexual students within the same school who reported equivalent levels of peer victimization.

“Our research suggests that LGBTQ identification remains a unique predictor of risk after accounting for peer victimization, raising concerns about policies that focus almost exclusively on bullying prevention to address LGBTQ-heterosexual risk disparities,” the authors report.  Their research sample included 11,337 students in Grades 7 through 12 from 30 schools in Dane County, Wisconsin.

This research has direct implications for bullying prevention programs. It suggests that efforts to reduce bullying that avoid mention of sexual orientation may be insufficient to create supportive learning environments for sexual minorities.  Addressing victimization and ignoring other aspects of the schooling environment is unlikely to eliminate disparities in suicide-related outcomes.

Media Links

The full text content of this article from the November Educational Researcher is available online. Read prior work by Joseph Robinson and Dorothy Espelage published in Educational Researcher. View Espelage as she discusses the international scholarship on school bullying.   

Media Contact: Call (202)238-3200 or contact Ashley Lusk at 

To contact Professor Robinson, email; to contact Professor Espelage, email 

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