A new study published in the journal Pediatrics suggested public discourse about LGBTI issues in the US have an effect on homophobic bullying at schools.
‘The public health consequences of these very contentious and media-driven discussions are more important than we knew,’ said Stephen Russell, senior author of the study and chair of the Human Development and Family Sciences Department at the University of Texas at Austin.
Researchers specifically focused on 2008’s Proposition 8 in California, which made same-sex marriage illegal in the state.
They studied results from surveys conducted between 2001 and 2014. The surveys have answers from over 5 million middle and high school students at over 5,000 institutions in California.
The surveys asked students how often they were bullied in the past year due to their sexual orientation or gender, whether perceived or known. They also asked them how often their identity made them a target.
Findings and correlations
Based on the survey results, the authors found reports of homophobic bullying at schools increased in 2008 and 2009. The proposition passed in 2008, and a court initially found it constitutional in spring 2009.
During these years, media coverage of the proposition and debate about its topic was rampant in the state.
Year after year following the vote, rates of homophobic bullying decreased.
‘This research provides some of the first empirical evidence that public campaigns that promote stigma may confer risk for bias-based bullying among youth,’ the authors wrote in the article.
Russell continued, mentioning numerous political topics: ‘Policies and campaigns related to Black Lives Matter, bathroom bills, immigration—these can be concerning in how they affect the health and well-being of youth.’
It’s also not only LGBTI students who are affected by this phenomenon.
‘The data are telling us that straight kids are getting bullied for this, too,’ Russell said. ‘It’s all about what the bullies perceive.’
A recent study of transgender students being assaulted and harassed suggested similar results.