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Non-Heterosexual Youth Disproportionately Punished at School and in Court

Research based on Add Health data shows that gay, lesbian, and bisexual youth are more likely to face sanctions for illegal and transgressive behaviors than similarly behaving straight peers.

A new study showing that gay, lesbian, and bisexual adolescents are more likely to be singled out for punishment by schools and courts than their heterosexual peers was recently published in Pediatrics and featured in the New York Times.

The study, which was conducted by Kathryn Himmelstein and Hannah Brueckner of Yale University, is based on seven years of data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health).  The authors reviewed data on nonviolent misdeeds like alcohol use, lying to parents, shoplifting, and vandalism along with more serious crimes such as selling drugs, using a weapon, or committing burglary.  They found that Lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth were more likely to be expelled from school, arrested, or stopped by the police than their peers, even though they were less likely to engage in violence and other serious misdeeds.  Girls who self-identified as lesbian or bisexual appeared to be at highest risk for punishment.

Although the study was not designed to investigate the reasons why non-heterosexual students are disproportionately punished, the authors suggested that the findings may reflect discrimination by school or court officials against non-heterosexuals, or that non-heterosexuals might receive less support from the education, health care, and child welfare systems than their straight peers.

News source:

Parker-Pope, Tara. "Schools and Legal System Mistreat Gays, Study Says" The New York Times (on-line December 6, 2010)

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Study source:

Himmelstein, Kathryn E.W. and Hannah Bruckner. (2010). Criminal-Justice and School Sanctions Against Nonheterosexual Youth: A National Longitudinal Study. Pediatrics.  Published on-line December 6, 2010.  DOI:10.1542/peds.2009-2306