Date of Award

8-2008

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Social Work

Major Professor

David R. Dupper

Committee Members

Rebecca Bolen, Terri Combs-Orme, Bharat Mehra

Abstract

Prejudice, discrimination and hate crimes against lesbians and gay men are prevalent throughout the United States. Prejudice in public school settings, as manifested in teacher attitudes and behavior, is particularly problematic for lesbian, gay, bisexual and questioning or queer (LGBQ) students and LGBQ parents. Efforts to reduce prejudice for sexual minority groups have met with limited success. Creating safer and more inclusive school environments is essential for the wellbeing and learning of all students. Furthermore, the field of social work is guided by principles that necessitate intervention research that addresses harassment and violence based on sexual orientation prejudice.

This dissertation examines research on prejudice against LGBQ populations in public school settings, theories that seek to explain prejudice, and interventions to reduce prejudice. Intergroup dialogue is tested as one promising intervention social workers can use to improve relationships regarding polarizing topics such as sexual orientation, and to improve school culture and climate for LGBQ populations. An experimental design using quantitative and qualitative data was employed. The study used an established dialogue protocol in a community setting, with multiple outcome measures. Quantitative results indicate dialogue participation resulted in statistically significant positive changes in feelings toward LGB people. Qualitative data analysis revealed positive changes in attitudes, feelings, behaviors, critical self-reflection and perspective taking were all generated as a result of intergroup dialogue participation. Significance of the study in terms of recruiting participants for research on controversial topics, education and training for teachers on LGBQ issues, and intergroup dialogue work are discussed.

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