Academic journal article Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development

Counselors as Advocates for Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Youth: A Call for Equity and Action

Academic journal article Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development

Counselors as Advocates for Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Youth: A Call for Equity and Action

Article excerpt

Legal support for advocacy on behalf of gay male, lesbian, and bisexual male and female students was determined in a May 1999 Supreme Court ruling. This ruling, coupled with recent interpretations of the Title IX statute, strengthens the position for a more humanistic school environment. Recommendations for school counselors are included in this article.

Apoyo legal para la abogacia en nombre de estudiantes homosexuales, lesbianas y bisexuales se determino en una decision de la Corte Suprema de los Estados Unidos en Mayo de 1999. Esta decision, en conjunto con interpretaciones recientes del estatuto "Title IX," intensifica la postura que pide un ambiente mas humanistico en las escuelas. Recomendaciones para consejeros escolares se incluyen en este articulo.

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School climates are often hostile for gay male, lesbian, and bisexual male and female students and therefore negatively stratify equal educational opportunities. A fair and inclusive education is not possible for a student whose physical and emotional safety is routinely compromised. Counselors in schools are ideally situated to advocate for a safe and inclusive school climate for gay, lesbian, and bisexual students. Equity is a moral obligation of schools. Socially active counselors are ones who intervene in the lives of their students and act as change agents to address educational practices that have the potential to negatively affect their students.

The past 10 years have been defined by disturbing research demonstrating that gay, lesbian, and bisexual students are at greater risk than their peers for suicide and for physical and emotional abuse in schools, yet this research has had minimal influence on changing school systems (Gibson, 1989; McFarland, 1993; Schneider, Taylor, Kemeny, & Hammen, 1991). A lack of recognition and protection by educational institutions is cited as a key contributor to the critically high level of suicide among gay, lesbian, and bisexual students (D'Augelli & Hershberger, 1995).

School counselors and community mental health counselors positioned in schools can be instrumental in advocating for a safer, more equitable environment for gay, lesbian, and bisexual students. A legal ruling has opened a window for change in how these vulnerable, at-risk students can be supported. On May 24, 1999, the U.S. Supreme Court, in Davis v. Monroe County Board of Education, imposed a ruling that when coupled with recent interpretations of legislation and court cases will have far-reaching and positive implications for gay, lesbian, and bisexual students in schools. The Davis case established that public schools can be forced to pay damages for failing to stop student-on-student sexual harassment (Davis v. Monroe County Board of Education, 1999). The case raises as many questions as it answers but inarguably encourages school districts to protect this currently invisible minority against harassment by fellow students.

This article explores the school counselor's leadership and advocacy role in helping schools and school systems become a more humanistic environment for the invisible minority. The following topics are discussed: (a) the counselor's unique opportunity to exercise an advocacy role for gay, lesbian, and bisexual students; (b) the cost to gay, lesbian, and bisexual students of dangerous school climates; (c) the chronology of case law and statutes that can influence change for schools regarding their approach to gay, lesbian, and bisexual students; (d) the counselor as an advocate and change agent for unhealthy school climates; (e) the barriers including the legal and ethical complications of counseling minors in school settings; and (f) recommendations for intervening on behalf of gay, lesbian, and bisexual students.

counselors as advocates

Educational reform and professional leaders are increasingly focusing on the counselor as advocate and change agent (Ericksen, 1997; Hart & Jacobi, 1992; Lee & Walz, 1998; Osborne et al. …

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