Lesbian students get suspended more than straight students

A recent Princeton University study found higher suspension rates for lesbian high school students. (Staff photo by Joshua Bullock)


A recent study suggests that female students who are attracted to female students get suspended and expelled more than female students who are solely attracted to male students.

Princeton University student Joel Mittleman performed a population-based study analyzing over 3,000 teenagers from birth. Part of the study included asking the participants their sexual orientations while parents were asked about their child’s behavior and whether their child has been suspended or expelled.

Mittleman concluded that students of a sexual minority continue to endure higher rates of disciplinary action than other students.

An advisor for the Gay-Straight Alliance club of Hillside High School says that all vulnerable populations at schools seem to experience this. Holly Jordan has been the GSA advisor for seven years and currently serves on the N.C. School Board.

“I think the research shows a variety of marginalized communities reporting a higher rate of suspension and expulsion,” Jordan stated. “Even students with disabilities are disciplined more than students without disabilities.”

Same-sex attraction correlates with about 95 percent higher chances of disciplinary action among teenage girls, but teenage boys do not share the same odds, according to the report.

“I’m surprised to hear that LGBT boys do not experience the same risk,” Jordan expressed. “I don’t exactly know why the study would suggest that. Generally, LGBT students often do not get the support they need in schools.”

Furthermore, girls who were reported to be attracted to girls were more often to be diagnosed with a learning disability such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder than girls who reported only being attracted to boys.

“I think a lot of it goes back to marginalized students,” Jordan explained. “Lack of support leads to certain outcomes around behavior.”

Mittleman suggested that more often the discipline did not correlate to students’ behavior at all; however, it is the schools’ discriminatory treatment of students who identify with a sexual minority.

“I think it is more about discrimination. Not just in the moment of suspension, discrimination in terms of students not being supported by schools,” Jordan stated. “Because they are being bullied or teased, an LGBT student may hit another student. There is always more to the story. Discrimination starts before discipline.”

A graduate of a high school in Durham, who preferred to remain anonymous, shared her experience as a bisexual girl in a high school.

“I was never suspended in high school,” the student exclaimed. “I was always on my best behavior; therefore, being suspended was out of the question.”

“There is no correlation. Your sexuality does not determine your behavior; that doesn’t even make sense,” the student said. “Possibly, most of the suspended girls were discrimination cases. Of course, if you go to something like a Christian academy, then there may be issues. If someone is suspending, expelling, or disciplining students for their sexual minorities, they need to be fired.”

Jordan concluded, “Overall, schools, from administrators to teachers in individual classrooms, need to make sure they are creating environments where students feel safe, so results for studies similar to this can have different outcomes.”