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Research Proposal- The Connection between Social Support in Schools and School Policies That Support the LGBTQ Community

Research Proposal- The Connection Between Social Support in Schools and School Policies That Support the LGBTQ Community

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Discrimination in the LGBTQ community has been on the rise regardless of previous regulations that encouraged the support and inclusion of all sexual identities. A past study by Singh & Durso (2017) shows that one out of four LGBT individuals accounts for encountering discrimination. More than ever, a high number of people are against this group of individuals for unclear and personal reasons. Discriminating laws have been formed against the LGBTQ community, thus negatively affecting various individuals, and now, many people are coming out to demonstrate and oppose all the negative undertakings. Consequently, people in the LGBTQ community have become significant targets of violence, harassment, and discrimination, which tend to negatively impact them, as observed in the high rates of suicide risks, poor sexual and mental health, and substance use among this population.

According to Dorton (2020), even though employment discrimination is frequently the center of a lawsuit, the LGBTQ community tends to face prejudice in housing as well as education contexts. With all the negativities that this group is facing, the issue has attracted various researchers with the aim of finding solutions to the situation. One prevalent resolution is implementing various strategies in school that facilitate support and inclusiveness of the group. Typically, schools can play an integral role in making necessary changes and policies that can help improve the well-being of the LGBTQ in society since most youths spend a significant percentage of their time in school. In a time when laws are being passed that negatively affect the LGBTQ youth in the US, it is beneficial for the research to show the benefits of having an inclusive environment for this vulnerable population of youth. These policies impact the LGBTQ community, create an imbalance of social justice, and do not promote educational equity. Social workers have a role in preventing discrimination in vulnerable communities and ensuring social justice for all individuals. As such, this topic helps social workers exercise their responsibility.

Accordingly, this research aims at identifying the connection between social support in schools and school policies that support lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer youth. The study will also identify the risk aspects and protective elements of schools having gender-sexuality alliances and how this presents at diverse levels comprising a high school, middle, and elementary school. Researching this topic is not about telling people what is best; instead, it informs them of the benefits and risks. The goal of this research question is to improve understanding of gender-sexuality issues. It is expected that policymakers will consider incorporating an all-inclusive and supportive policy and support programs for LGBTQ+ students to enhance their well-being and obtain support from their peers and school staff.

Literature Review

According to Fish (2020), LGBTQ youth tend to have come of age in a period of dynamic political and social modification as far as their rights and discernibility are concerned, but they continue to be susceptible to compromised mental well-being. The study has recognized tenacious and obstinate discrepancies in mental health, drug use, and additional wellness pointers amongst gay, lesbian, transgender, bisexual, and queer individuals (Russell  & Fish, 2016). Meyer (2003) states that LGBTQ-related health discrimination tends to be associated with minority stressors.

Cummins’s empowerment theory tends to align with the philosophy concerning the need for a supportive and caring school atmosphere for every student. According to Cummins (n.d.), as one person or group becomes more empowered, more is produced for other individuals to share, and the procedure tends to be additive, contrary to subtractive. Cummins’ theory is majorly focused on ethnic minority students, but it offers a structure that can be used to empower any minority group that faces discrimination. Cummin’s empowerment theory suggests that students from marginalized communities can be empowered or disabled by their interactions and relationships in the school context (Boyland, Kirkeby & Boyland, 2018). According to Cummins, school leaders play an integral role in making choices that support the belief practices and systems in schools to empower minority students. The schools that strive to empower minority students will engage in specific actions such as encouraging personnel that fosters inclusivity and advocating for the needs and rights of minority students (Boyland et al., 2016).

At its core, the theory advocates for positive and supportive relationships between educators and minority youth to ensure students’ success. According to Cummins, a supportive school-community environment is essential in empowering minority communities that have been targets of institutional oppression, underrepresentation or overrepresentation, and societal biases (Boyland, Kirkeby & Boyland, 2020). It emphasizes the need for school leaders to have a strong social justice belief to help move the school towards a culture of equity and inclusivity. Having such a culture will allow other individuals, staff, and students to follow suit to foster a supportive and inclusive environment for LGBTQ+ youth in schools.

Challenges Faced by LGBTQ+ Youth

There are significant health disparities in the LGBTQ community, as national reports show that suicide rates and suicidal ideations are disturbingly high. About 29.4% of LGBTQ individuals are reported to have attempted suicide compared to only 6.4% of heterosexuals in 2019 (Johns et al., 2019). LGBTQ+ youth are also said to have a 190% probability of abusing substances compared to heterosexuals (Johns et al., 2019). Huebner et al. (2017) argue that high levels of stress due to rejection, discrimination, and harassment are commonly behind such high usage of alcohol and drugs among LGBTQ youth.

Schools are important in youth development, and they should be considered a safe haven through which students can obtain supportive relationships with peers and teachers. Such relationships enhance the well-being and health outcomes of the students. However, at the same time, harassment and bullying are also common in schools, and about 21% of the students report being bullied (Day et al., 2020). According to Day et al. (2020), youth who undergo bias-based bullying due to their actual or perceived gender or sexual identity tend to have poorer mental health, higher truancy, and more significant substance abuse than youths who undergo general bullying.

LGBTQ+ males are particularly vulnerable to victimization due to their sexuality and are often subjects of homophobic comments. LGBTQ+ youths who have been victims of bullying tend to report low levels of school connectedness, which is essential in the academic performance and general well-being of students in schools. The adverse effects felt by the LGBTQ+ youth in schools have gained a lot of attention from schools, communities, and parents. Accordingly, the administrators have felt the need to ensure a more supportive school environment to help these youth be successful in all aspects of their lives. As a result, various policies and strategies have been recommended and implemented in some schools. Some of them include the Gay-Straight Alliances and the Supportive School Environments.

Gay-Straight Alliances

Since the Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) was created in 1988, it has become a key component of community-based and student-led organizations that provide safe environments for LGBTQ+ youth. In the GSA network, a total of 28% of individuals identify themselves as heterosexuals (Callaway & Brown, 2021). Including heterosexuals in the network has come under significant criticism as the issue of how supportive the network can be of the specific mental needs affecting LGBTQ+ has come into question. The LGBTQ+ youth are subjects of bullying and have a three- and five-times likelihood of committing and attempting suicide, respectively (Callaway & Brown, 2021). However, advocates for the programs believe that including heterosexuals in the group can help lessen bias-based bullying and increase social support within the school environment (Day et al., 2020). One of the ways to help support the mental health of LGBTQ+ students is by generating a more supportive and inclusive school climate with the support of various school staff, policymakers, administrators, and researchers. GSAs can help provide such an environment.

GSA provides an avenue for advocacy of the needs of LGBTQ+ individuals of varying sexualities and genders (Baams et al., 2020). Some studies show that GSAs have successfully minimized the levels of victimization of LGBTQ+ youth in school. There are also reports of reduced fear of safety and homophobic remarks (Marx & Kettrey, 2016; Baams et al., 2020). This fact has been supported by Li et al. (2019), who claim that with GSAs in schools, both LGBTQ+ and heterosexual students report heightened feelings of safety. Some scholars even report reduced anxiety and depression by students who participate in GSA programs since such programs are said to foster teacher and peer support (Fish, 2020; Wright, Wachs & Gámez-Guadix, 2022; Baams & Russell, 2021).

Furthermore, Day et al. (2020) claim that about 20% of the youth in schools with GSAs claim to obtain teacher intervention regarding homophobic comments compared to only 12% of youth without GSA in their schools. In their study, Day et al. (2020) found that LGBTQ+ youth who were in schools that implemented GSA did not actively participate in risky behaviors such as alcohol, unsafe sex, and tobacco use. This study offers insightful and valid research as the sample size was large (n-=1061) and diverse (Hispanics, African Americans, Whites, Asian Americans, and Native Americans, among others). Day et al. (2020) also claim that supportive community-level programs, events, and organizations are likely to provide protective barriers against substance use among LGBTQ youth: GSAs have been considered crucial programs for facilitating this.

Supportive School Environments (SSEs)                                                                 

The SSE strategies include technical assistance and professional development, which aim to back the application of the other strategies. These additional strategies include implementing guidelines to support gender non-conforming and transgender students, expanding GSAs in schools, the presence of symbols and signs of support, and implementing a curriculum inclusive of the LGBTQ+. According to Jarpe-Ratner et al. (2021), strategies that are usually combined and take note of the link between individual and environmental factors and can address at least two ecological levels are highly effective in promoting good health.

Literature Gaps

Regardless of the various studies conducted in this research, there seem to be gaps in some areas, such as effective policies for LGBTQ individuals. As much as equality is encouraged for all individuals, practicality has not been efficiently shown. According to (Cray et al., 2013), probably the most evident gap in service and policy provision is the absence of LGBTQ precise RHY programs. Additionally, limitations have been prevalent in current policies concerning youth-accessible organizations (Maccio & Ferguson, 2016). The articles have also failed to examine such policies as GSAs and how they impact LGBTQ+ youth. Most of the studies have focused on the benefits obtained without necessarily identifying the possible adverse effects of such a policy on LGBTQ+ and heterosexual students in schools. Some of the studies have been written by similar authors, which might bring about bias issues. However, using other studies to confirm or dispute the findings eliminated such biases in this study. Accordingly, this proposal aims to fill this gap by providing an in-depth analysis of such policies and providing information on how well they can be implemented and whether they promote inclusion and acceptance.

Research Questions

What is the relationship between social support in schools and school policies supporting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer youth? What are the risk factors and protective factors of schools having gender-sexuality alliances? How does this present at different elementary, middle, and high school levels?

Does having support systems in the schools, coupled with implementing anti-bullying policies, promote acceptance and inclusion?


Design Overview

The type of research that will be utilized is qualitative. This research is appropriate for this topic because people’s opinions and experiences are required. The applied method will be significant in presenting rich explanations of this compound issue, exploring the unique encounters, and revealing diverse experiences and interpretations of the events. This will be done by actors with extensively varying responsibilities and stakes, thus giving voice to the individuals whose viewpoints are seldom listened to. Questionnaires and interviews will be used in the study. The question will be asked depending on the participant’s understanding level. Typically, the questionnaire will be open-ended, thus allowing the participant to give a lot of details.

Sample and Procedure

Target Population

Among the target populations for this study will be students. These will be from a university, high school, as well as elementary and middle school. They have a direct association with the LGBTQ programs in their educational institutions and how they are affecting them or their friends. Additionally, teachers are among the target populations. Their perceptions and encounters will be highly valuable for this research because they are great influences on LGBTQ programs and policies. The school principals will be part of this research since they may or not allow the formation. The parents will also be part of the target population since they have a lot of perceptions regarding the subject.

Qualifying Characteristics

One of the characteristics that will make the participants eligible for this study is being above 18 years of age or having a parent or guardian permitting a child to partake in the reach. Those participants under 18 years of age and partaking in the research with the guardian’s permission will have to be at least 13 years of age. Another characteristic will be that the participants have to be from the LGBTQ community or have a friend or family member from the community. Additionally, the players will be required to understand English.

Participant Recruitment

Since many participants will be required for this research, various strategies will be used for recruitment. Additionally, it is not certain that many people will want to come out and participate in the research, owing to the ongoing discrimination against the LGBTQ community. This will also be a reason for using more than one recruitment strategy. As such, fliers and advertisements will be the predominant methods. These will be put in five educational institutions with a description of the research and contact information for the interested parties to reach out. The students will be asked to tell their parents about the study and request them to participate. Emails will also be sent to people projected to meet the criteria. Additionally, requests through face-to-face interactions will be utilized.

Sampling Strategy

The sampling strategy that will be utilized in the study is purposeful. Typically, the population will be selected from their sampling frame since they will have traits that will be necessary for the research. The researchers will basically start with precise features in mind that they will be required to scrutinize and then select candidates that will have covered a full range of the characteristics. The non-probability sample will be utilized because this will be the beginning of the research, and a draft will be issued to potential participants. Additionally, the research intends to get in-depth and idiographic comprehension of the subject.

External Validity

This study will involve a small sample of the population that will be used in drawing conclusions regarding the larger group. Typically, external validity will be ensured by making sure that the conclusions will be precisely generalized to the larger population. The utilized sample population will have to be representative of the target population.

Procedures for Protecting the Participant’s Research Rights

In protecting the participant’s research rights, personal information will be strictly protected. This will involve removing personal identifiers from the study files fast enough. However, participants who request their personal details to be revealed will have this considered. The rights will also be protected by permitting the participants to withdraw from the study at will. Additionally, a consent form will be issued to the candidates for them to sign. Before this, they will have to be well-informed about the study and the requirements. Not signing the consent form will cause participants to be disqualified from the study.

Incentives, Study Risks, and Ensuring Data Confidentiality

A 40-dollar stipend will be given to the qualified participants as an incentive. This will facilitate many potential candidates to volunteer for the research. The study risks include many participants panicking at the last minute and withdrawing from the study because of the topic’s sensitivity. The participants could also be distressed because of fear of judgment. Additionally, misrepresentation will also be a probable risk where the sample might not represent the entire population. Data privacy and confidentiality will be achieved by encrypting the participant’s computer-based files and storing other files in a locked cabinet. Additionally, personal identifiers will be quickly removed.

Data Collection Instruments

Major Variables

Typically, the independent variable is the assessment of social support in the school. Does the school allow for the training of staff? Are the students encouraged to have GSA groups? Are there a school-sanctioned LGBTQ+ and peer support group? These are all things that could lead to a variety of outcomes. The presence of the questions above would influence the dependent variables. Do the LGBTQ+ students feel supported by the staff and other students? LGBTQ+ represents all members who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, and asexual. GSA is a community-based or student-led organization that aims at providing a safe, inclusive, and supportive environment for LGBTQ+ individuals.

Research Instruments

A Likert scale with responses that measure an attitude or feeling regarding each question will be used. This instrument will be applicable because it is used in measuring people’s attitudes towards a subject, and in this LGBTQ topic, attitude will be significant. This is because it will help find people’s emotions regarding different facets of the subject, such as the current laws discriminating against the LGBTQ community. A scale in which students will rate from 1 to 10 how they feel about specific things, such as the level of support for LGBTQ+ youth in school, will also be used. Previously, the Likert scale has been used to represent people’s attitudes. The reliability and validity of the instrument will be assessed by utilizing Cronbach’s alpha. In case the items will fail to form a single scale, then the exploratory analysis will be utilized.

Critique and Conclusion

Overall, this research will be a success and able to attain the intended purpose. However, there might be a few challenges, but various strategies will be used to ensure that they do not largely affect the results. As such, one of the strengths of this research will be the validity of the corrected data. This will partially be because the research will be able to ask the participants to explain more, particularly in the interviews, thus giving precise responses. Additionally, the open-ended questions will allow the participants to explain more. The limitation of the research will be the ineffective representation of the larger population. The participant’s responses might not represent the perception or situation of the larger population. Additionally, framing the questions will be challenging because the interview involves students from different learning levels, parents, and teachers. Interviewing the young individuals might also be sensitive.

Due to the given incentive, many potential participants might show up for the study, which will be a strength for the research as it will be easy to find the most appropriate candidates for the research. Nevertheless, a major probable problem in the research is participants’ withdrawal from the research due to the fear of society’s judgment or, rather, some gay people might not be out yet. However, counseling specialists will be availed to make the participants confident and not fearful of the research or judgment.

The study instruments will be valid and reliable, which will be a strength of the study. The causal validity will be identified through empirical association and sequential precedence to the independent variable, thus enhancing the research validity. Acquiring the RRB approval for human research subject protections might be challenging due to the lack of some qualifications. However, help will be acquired from qualified individuals to get the approval.


Baams, L., & Russell, S. T. (2021). Gay-straight alliances, school functioning, and mental health: Associations for students of color and LGBTQ students. Youth & Society53(2), 211-229.

Beams, L., Pollitt, A. M., Laub, C., & Russell, S. T. (2020). Characteristics of schools with and without Gay-Straight Alliances. Applied developmental science, 24(4), 354-359.

Boyland, L. G., Kirkeby, K. M., & Boyland, M. I. (2018). Policies and practices supporting LGBTQ students in Indiana’s middle schools. NASSP Bulletin102(2), 111-140.

Boyland, L. G., Kirkeby, K. M., & Boyland, M. I. (2020). Actions and Attitudes Regarding Middle-Grade LGBTQ Students: Principals’ Perspectives. Journal of School Leadership30(2), 166-191.

Boyland, L. G., Swensson, J., Ellis, J. G., Coleman, L. L., & Boyland, M. I. (2016). Principals can and should make a positive difference for LGBTQ students. Journal of Leadership Education, 15(4), 117-131.

Callaway, C. R., & Brown, S. (2021). Is the GSA the Best Way: A Review of Effective Supports for LGBTQ Youth? Michigan Academician, 47(3), 93-93.

Cray, A., Miller, K., & Durso, L.E. (2013). Seeking shelter: the experiences and unmet needs of LGBT homeless youth. (Retrieved from the Center for American Progress website: LGBTHomelessYouth.pdf).

Cummins, J. Cummins, J.(in press). Translanguaging: A critical analysis of theoretical claims. In P. Juvonen & M. Källkvist (Eds.) Pedagogical Translanguaging: Theoretical, Methodological and Empirical Perspectives. Bristol: Multilingual Matters.


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This assignment is your final written assignment in this course. The literature review and project development worksheets you have been working on throughout the course have been preparing you to complete this assignment.

Research Proposal- The Connection between Social Support in Schools and School Policies That Support the LGBTQ Community

Research Proposal- The Connection between Social Support in Schools and School Policies That Support the LGBTQ Community

This research proposal is designed to guide you through a generalist approach to formulating a research problem and a question and hypothesis for its solution. The research proposal must be related to one of the major research roles for clinical or macro social work practice: (a) knowledge-building and theory-testing and (b) evaluating practice with individuals, couples, families, communities, and other groups. The research proposal can be quantitative, qualitative, or mixed methods. The proposal must be well-written and organized. It must contain all required sections (including an abstract), be written in third-person narrative format (not an outline), and include a running header, headings, subheadings, citations, references, figures or tables (if applicable), and seriation—these items must be commensurate with APA style. If the student does not know the APA style, they should review the APA manual or the OWL at Purdue. Also, the proposal should be written using Times New Roman 12-point font and with one-inch margins.

Please make sure that the literature review portion of your research proposal addresses all of the feedback provided to you from your literature review assignment. Please pay close attention to the format of the final paper. It’s important that you address all aspects of the paper.

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