School Psychologists' and Upper-level Graduate School Psychology Students' Knowledge and Attitudes Regarding Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals

Jennifer Kelly, Pace University


After several nationally publicized tragic incidents involving the suicides of students that were victims of bullying, the federal government, as of 2010, has undertaken the task of understanding bullying, its repercussions, how to stop it, and has encouraged states to address this problem seriously or face possible legal consequences (Bornstein, 2010). In 2012 New York State implemented The Dignity Act (also known as Dignity for All Students Act, or DASA). DASA emphasizes a holistic creation of environments of tolerance and respect for others by students and staff alike. DASA amended New York State Education Law requiring instruction in civility, citizenship, and character education, to increase sensitivity in the relations of people, including but not limited to, different races, weights, national origins, ethnic groups, religions, religious practices, mental or physical abilities, sexual orientations, gender identity, and sexes. DASA also requires yearly reports from every school in the state regarding material incidents of bullying, and the inclusion of language addressing The Dignity Act in each board of educations' code of conduct. The purpose of this study was to investigate school psychologists' and school psychology graduate students' knowledge of LGB (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual) history, symbols and community as measured by The Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Knowledge and Attitudes Scale for Heterosexuals (LGB-KASH), as an indicator of LGB-affirmativeness and preparedness for implementation of DASA, specifically on behalf of LGBT students. The attitudes and self-perceived proficiencies of practicing school psychologists and graduate students to work with LGBT students were explored in relation to their education/training about sexual minorities, and the presence of a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) in their school(s). The listsery for the New York Association of School Psychologist (NYASP), the state affiliation of the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP), was used to recruit practicing New York State school psychologists (n = 162, 58.1%) for participation in an online survey. Likewise, upper-level school psychology students (n = 117, 41.9%) enrolled in Master's, Specialist and Doctoral level school psychology training programs in New York were recruited via the NASP online directory of approved programs. The participants in this study included 242 (86.7%) women, 34 (12.3%) men, and 3 participants who did not identify (1.1%). Overall both graduate students and practicing school psychologists participants held positive attitudes regarding LGB individuals and issues as measured by the Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Knowledge and Attitudes Scale for Heterosexuals (LGB-KASH), but lacked knowledge about LGB history, symbols and community. Education was shown to increase Knowledge scores for both students and practicing school psychologists. School psychologists in schools with Gay Straight Alliances (GSAs) did not differentiate in terms of Knowledge scores from those who did not have a GSA, however the presence of a GSA did increase school psychologists' self-perceptions for working effectively with bullying that involved LGBT students, and appropriately providing interventions for a student coming out. This result is an area for further inquiry. Similarly, another area for additional research is building resilience so students have the social skills or assertiveness training, which they may not be learning at home, and as a result make them even more vulnerable when bullied. Finally, research can be expanded to include school psychologists and graduate student knowledge and attitudes towards students that identify as transgender. Limitations of this study are explored.

Subject Area


Recommended Citation

Kelly, Jennifer, "School Psychologists' and Upper-level Graduate School Psychology Students' Knowledge and Attitudes Regarding Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals" (2015). ETD Collection for Pace University. AAI3579828.



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