Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Teacher Education

Major Professor

Judson Laughter

Committee Members

Susan Groenke, Stergios Botzakis, Mitsunori Misawa


Research shows that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, Queer and questioning plus (LGBTQ+) youth are at high risk for bullying and violent victimization, poor mental health, alcohol and other drug use, and poor academic performance. According to the 2019 GLSEN school climate survey, LGBTQ+ students reported hearing hostile remarks, experiencing harassment and assault, feeling unsafe because of personal characteristics, and being subjected to discriminatory policies. The purpose of this narrative inquiry is to understand how secondary students experience school environments and how their teachers can be supportive and affirming of their diverse identities. The following research questions guided this study: 1) What stories do LGBTQ+ students tell about their educational experiences? 2) What strategies do LGBTQ+ students use to survive in secondary educational environments?

The findings of this study revealed several themes that inform how teachers can work to develop classrooms as safe spaces for LGBTQ+ students. The implications of this study emphasize the importance of training teachers to develop strategies that affirm all students, regardless of their identities. Teachers should be familiar with a brief history of LGBTQ+ identities, should be trained in the correct, affirming language to use with LGBTQ+ students, and be willing to address macro- and microaggressions in the school environment. These implications provide guidance for teacher preparation programs and in-service professional development to develop explicit strategies to affirm diverse student genders and sexual orientations by meeting students where they are and explicitly addressing identity-based bullying.

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