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Assessing Michigan school counselors' preparedness to meet the needs of attractional/sexual minority students

Dissertation
Author: J. Frederick Bland
Abstract:
This study assessed the attitudes, skills, knowledge, graduate counseling training, and willingness to engage in professional development of Michigan school counselors regarding issues and concerns of students who identify as lesbian, gay, biattractional, transgender, and students who are questioning their attractional orientation (LGBTQ). A total of 120 Michigan school counselors completed useable surveys either online or a paper-and-pencil version at a Michigan school counseling conference. Descriptive statistics were calculated for the demographic variables age, gender, ethnicity, attractional/sexual orientation, and professional characteristics such as years of school counseling experience, school level, and school location (urban, suburban, rural). One-way ANOVAs were used to determine statistical significance for the previously mentioned independent variables with the dependent variables being the Attitudes, Skills/Experiences, and Knowledge subscales of the Sexual Orientation Counselor Competency Scale (SOCCS; Bidell, 2005), and overall rating of graduate school counseling training. Results indicated: (a) no statistically significant differences regarding attitudes among the independent variables; (b) statistical significance regarding skills/experiences was found only with the collapsed variables for ethnic background and attractional orientation, with White and nonheterosexual participants scoring higher on this subscale; and (c) regarding knowledge, statistical significance was found only with attractional/sexual orientation, with nonheterosexual participants scoring higher on knowledge of LGBTQ issues. Overall, school counselors in this study believed that their graduate school counseling training programs did not adequately prepare them to competently work with attractional minority students. Participants believed they were better prepared to work with gay males and lesbians and less prepared to work with biattractional, transgender, and questioning youth. The 30-39 age group believed themselves to be better prepared than older groups, and the 60 and above age group reported being the least prepared to work with LGBTQ students. Participants indicated they were willing to participate in professional development activities in this area and rated the top three continuing education activities as taking a course, attending an in- service training, and reading professional literature on LGBTQ issues Implications for school counselor education programs and continuing education are presented, and recommendations for future research are offered.

TABLE OF CONTENTS ACKNOWLEDGMENTS ii LIST OF TABLES xvi CHAPTER I. INTRODUCTION 1 Background of the Problem 2 Statement of the Problem 9 Statement of Purpose 12 Significance of the Study 14 Re-definitions of Key Terms 16 H. REVIEW OF LITERATURE 22 Adolescent Tasks 23 Adolescent Attractionality 24 Heteroattractional Bias 25 Heteroattractional Privilege 28 Adolescent Homoattractionality 29 Prevalence of Attractional Minority Students 32 Homoattractional Identity Formulation in Adolescents 34 The Cass Six-Stage Model of Homoattractional Identity Development 35 viii

Table of Contents—Continued CHAPTER The Coleman Five-Stage Model of Homoattractional Identity Development 40 The Troiden Four-Stage Model of Homoattractional Identity Development 42 Transgender Identity Development 45 Validation of the Stage Models 47 Other Models of Homoattractional Identity Development 48 Attractional Identity Development in Racial and Ethnic Minorities 51 Attractional Orientation and U.S. Public Schools 56 The Hetero-sexualized Context of U.S. Public Schools 57 U.S. Public Schools and Attractional Minority Youth 59 School Experiences of Attractional Minority Youth 61 School Climate 62 Victimization 66 Social Isolation and Alienation 71 School Attendance and Dropping Out 74 School Curriculum and Resources 76 Attractional Minority Youth At-Risk 77 Suicide 78 Substance Abuse 80 Family Conflict and Homelessness 82 IX

Table of Contents—Continued CHAPTER Sexually Transmitted Diseases 84 Attractional Minority Youth and Resilience 85 School Counselors and Attractional Minority Students 88 School Counselors' Attitudes Regarding Attractional Minority Students 89 School Counselors' Experiences Working With Attractional Minority Students 91 School Counselors' Training Related to Attractional Minority Students 93 Attractional Minority Students' Perception of School Counselors 96 Legal Responsibilities of Schools Toward Attractional Minority Students 99 Title IX of the 1972 Federal Education Amendment 99 The Fourteenth Amendment Equal Protection Clause 100 Ethical Responsibilities of Schools Toward Attractional Minority Students 105 School Counselors' Responsibility According to ASCA 105 The Preamble of the ASCA Ethical Standards 106 The Purpose of the ASCA Standards 107 ASCA Ethical Standards Applied to Attractional Minority Students 109 A.l -Responsibilities to Students 109 A.3 - Counseling Plans 111 A.5 - Appropriate Referrals 111 x

Table of Contents—Continued CHAPTER C.2. - Sharing Information With Other Professionals 112 E.2. -Diversity 113 F. Responsibilities to the Profession 114 School Counselors' Responsibility to Attractional Minority Students According to MSCA 116 Transforming School Counseling for Social Justice 119 Social Justice 120 School Counseling for Social Justice 121 American Counseling Association - Advocacy Competencies 122 The Education Trust - Transforming School Counseling 123 Summary 125 m. METHODOLOGY 129 Research Design 129 Participants and Sampling 131 Data Collection Procedures 132 Research Context: Online Survey and Paper-and-Pencil Survey 132 Online Survey Procedure 133 Paper-and-Pencil Survey Procedures 136 Survey Response Rate 138 Instrument: The Survey 140 Demographic Information 143 xi

Table of Contents—Continued CHAPTER Human Institutional Review 145 Research Questions for the Current Study 145 Statistical Analyses 149 Summary 150 IV. RESULTS 152 Demographics and Professional Profile 153 Age 153 Gender and Ethnic Background 154 Attractional/Sexual Orientation 155 Graduate Counseling Program 155 School Counselor Credential 156 School Counseling Association Membership 156 Years of School Counseling Experience 158 Years of Counseling Experience Outside of School Setting 159 Type of School and Current School Level(s) 160 School Locale and County of School 162 Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) 162 Data Analyses 164 Descriptive Statistics 164 SOCCS Total Score 165 xii

Table of Contents—Continued CHAPTER Research Question 1 -Attitude 167 Research Question 2 - Skills/Experiences 169 Research Question 3 - Knowledge 172 Research Question 4 - Training 176 Research Question 5 - Professional Development 180 Professional Development Activities 181 Most Helpful Continuing Education Activities 182 Additional School Counselors' Perspectives on LGBTQ Issues and Training 184 School Counselor Role With LGBTQ Students 185 Estimates of LGBTQ Students in Their School 186 Experiences With LGBTQ Issues in Graduate Counseling Programs.... 187 Course Solely Devoted to LGBTQ Counseling Issues 189 LGBTQ Concerns Infused Into Courses 190 Preparation by Coursework to Work With Types of LGBTQ Students 194 V. DISCUSSION 197 Demographics and Professional Profile Information 198 Age 198 Gender 199 Ethnic Background 199 Xl l l

Table of Contents—Continued CHAPTER Attractional/Sexual Orientation 200 Graduate Counseling Program 201 Overview of the Study's Significant Findings 201 Descriptive Statistics 201 Attitude 202 Skills/Experiences 203 Knowledge 206 Overall Graduate Counseling Program Training 207 Professional Development 208 Additional School Counselors' Perspectives 210 Role of School Counselor 210 Experiences With LGBTQ Issues in Graduate Counseling Programs.... 212 Limitations of the Study 217 Recommendations for Future Research 219 Implications for Graduate School Counselor Education 223 Implications for Professional Development and Continuing Education 225 Conclusion 227 APPENDICES A. Western Michigan University Human Subjects Institutional Review Board Letters of Approval 228 xi v

Table of Contents—Continued APPENDICES B. E-mail and Letter Granting Permission to Use Instruments 231 C. Text of E-mail for Recruitment of Participants 234 D. Informed Consent 237 E. Online Survey 241 F. Paper-and-Pencil Survey 257 BIBLIOGRAPHY 267 xv

LIST OF TABLES 1. Demographics of Study Participants 154 2. Details of Graduate Counseling Program and School Counseling Credentials 157 3. Professional School Counselor Association Membership 158 4. Years of Counseling Experiences 159 5. School Types and Levels 161 6. Location of Schools 162 7. Gay Straight Alliance 163 8. One-Way ANOVAs—Total Score 166 9. One-Way ANOVAs—Attitudes Subscale of the SOCCS 169 10. One-Way ANOVAs—Skills Subscale of the SOCCS 171 11. One-Way ANOVAs—Knowledge Subscale of the SOCCS 174 12. SOCCS Mean Scores of Counselor Competency 176 13. Overall Belief Regarding Graduate Counseling Training Toward LGBTQ Students 177 14. One-Way ANOVAs—Overall Perception of Adequate Graduate Training on LGBTQ Issues 178 15. PostHoc Tests—Overall Perception of Adequate Graduate Training— Age of Participants 179 16. Post Hoc Tests—Overall Perception of Adequate Graduate Training— Years of School Counseling Experience (Collapsed) 180 xvi

List of Tables—Continued 17. Willingness to Participate in Professional Development Activities Regarding LGBTQ Issues 181 18. Most Helpful Continuing Education Activities Regarding LGBTQ Issues 183 19. School Counselors' Role With LGBTQ Students 186 20. Issues in Graduate Counseling Training 188 21. Course Devoted to LGBTQ Student Issues 190 22. LGBTQ Concerns Infused Into Courses 191 23. One-Way ANOVAs—LGBTQ Concerns Infused Into Courses 192 24. Preparation by Coursework to Work With Types of LGBTQ Students 195 xvn

CHAPTER I INTRODUCTION On a daily basis, school counselors are responsible for executing a myriad of activities that are designed to enhance the intellectual, career, psychological, physical, and social development of all students. Students will self-refer or are referred to school counselors to receive assistance with a number of issues through counseling activities including, but not limited to, career planning, college selection, academic counseling, values clarification, course scheduling, developing decision-making skills, parents and teachers' conferences, group counseling, and counseling for personal/social considerations. Locke (1979), in his study assessing the functions and competencies of school counselors in North Carolina, found that at least 80% of the respondents reported being able to perform the previously mentioned counseling activities "with ease" (p. 24). Campbell and Dahir (1997) state, "school counselors work with all students, school staff, families, and members of the community as an integral part of the education program" (p. 8). However, there is a significant body of literature that suggests that the developmental needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender youth, and youth who are questioning their sexual orientation (LGBTQ; also referred to as sexual minority youth or same-gender attracted youth) are not being met or even addressed by the majority of school counselors in public, private, and parochial schools (Bailey & Phariss, 1996; Pollock, 2006; K. E. Robinson, 1994). As a result, sexual minority youth are considered 1

2 to be at-risk for dropping out of school, substance abuse, running away from home, sexually transmitted diseases, and suicide (Hershberger & D'Augelli, 1995; Jordan, 2000; Rotheram-Borus, Rosario, et al., 1994; S. T. Russell, 2003; Savin-Williams, 1994). This study focuses on school counselors' abilities to meet the developmental needs of sexual minority students in Michigan schools. Specifically, this study assesses: (a) the attitudes, knowledge, and skills of school counselors regarding issues of sexual orientation and sexual minority students; (b) the training that school counselors have received as it relates to working with sexual minority students in Michigan schools; and (c) school counselors' willingness to engage in professional development as it relates to issues of sexual orientation and sexual minority students. Implications for school counselor education programs and comprehensive school guidance counseling programs are discussed. Background of the Problem Adolescence is a challenging time when teens are attempting to master cognitive, social, and developmental tasks (Hetrick & Martin, 1987). Often, they are expected to make adult-like decisions when faced with adult experiences without the necessary tools, resources, information, and guidance to do so. During this phase of life, the adolescent begins to ask questions that are existential in nature such as "Who am I?" and "What is my purpose in life?" The focus is on the physical, cognitive, psychological, and social tasks of development. This can be a tumultuous period in the life of an adolescent with or without adequate and available resources to consult and confer (Fontaine & Hammond, 1996).

3 One of the major tasks of adolescence is identity formulation and consolidation: discovering oneself and the purpose of being (Fontaine & Hammond, 1996). According to Erikson (1963), identity formation is the most important developmental task in adolescence because it serves as a trajectory to peer group interaction and acceptance, which further aid the adolescent in continuing to consolidate his or her self-concept. Another major component of this identity formation is sexual identity formulation: who one is as a sexual being (Fontaine & Hammond, 1996). Research regarding the development of sexual identity indicates that the process can begin during pre-puberty, puberty or early adolescence (Bailey & Phariss, 1996; Cass, 1979; Fischer, 1995; Uribe, 1994) and could possibly continue well into the post high school years (i.e., college) where the environment allows for freedom to explore issues of sexual identity (Fischer, 1995; Morrison & L'Heureux, 2001; Savin-Williams, 1995). Sexual identity formulation for heterosexual adolescents can be a time of affirmation, praise, and positive self-imaging, having adequate and ample support, counsel, role models, and resources for building a positive self-concept. Due to societal and peer affirmation and the availability of literary and human resources, development of a heterosexual identity requires very little thought or conscious effort (Fontaine & Hammond, 1996). However, what about those adolescents who are struggling with the possibility of same-gender attraction? In what numbers do such adolescents exist? When does the process of sexual identity formulation begin for such adolescents? Estimates suggest that there may be approximately 3,000,000 youth between ages 10-20 who are either predominantly or exclusively homosexual (Herring & Furgerson, 2000). Yet a study conducted in a five-county area in the southeast region of the state of

4 Michigan found that some high school counselors denied that their schools had any same- gender attracted students (Gay, Lesbian and Straight Teachers Network of Detroit [GLSTN-Detroit], 1996). Kissen (1993) surveyed gay and lesbian students attending public and parochial high schools in 17 states and one foreign country to assess perceptions of their teachers regarding sexual minority student issues. This study concluded that teachers who ignored or derided homosexuals (gay males and lesbians) might have been unaware that they had homosexual students in their classes. This denial of gay youth was also one of the findings of a more recent study assessing urban services providers' perspectives on school responses to sexual minority students (Varjas et al., 2007). Varjas et al. quoted one of the service providers' account of a school principal who expressed, "like, come on, are there gay kids? A lot of people can not wrap their minds around . .. that there are gay youth" (p. 115). Ginsberg's (1998) study sought to answer the question, "To what extent do middle and high school educators contribute to the problems of gay/lesbian adolescents?" (p. 3). The results of that study indicate that each time a middle or high school teacher addresses a class, there is likely to be one or more sexual minority students in attendance and the educator could, unknowingly, be contributing to their pain. When does the process of sexual identity development begin for LGBTQ youth? Fischer (1995) posits that between the ages of 11 and 16, sexual minority adolescents begin to realize that there is something different about them. However, a study conducted by D'Augelli and Hershberger (1993) found that 13% of the sample of youths 21 years and younger reported awareness of same-gender attraction by age 5. Furthermore, Anderson (1998) studied a sample of gay male youths taken from 4-year college and

5 community college support groups to assess strengths and resilience. Results indicated that 89.6% of the respondents experienced preadolescent sense of difference at an average age of 7.2. Therefore, research supports the reality that same-gender attracted individuals do not all of a sudden appear in adulthood, but their same-gender affection may have started very early in life. Just as heterosexual youth go through a period of identity formulation, clarification, and consolidation, so do LGBTQ youth. This period of formulation, clarification, and consolidation of sexual identity is accomplished through several processes including peer comparison, affirmation from peers, and confirmation from society (Fontaine & Hammond, 1996). Micro-systems such as family, community, church, and school also influence this process. In addition, these micro-systems are greatly influenced by macro-systems, which include politics, judicial systems, mass media, national and state policies, and prevalent cultural values (Morrison & L'Heureux, 2001). The avenues that are openly available to heterosexual adolescents that tend towards a healthy sexual identity (e.g., peers, family, church, and school), are, in most instances, unavailable to most adolescents who are dealing with same-gender attraction and feelings of differentness (Anderson, 1998; Telljohann & Price, 1993). Further, school libraries are generally bereft of positive and relevant information on same-gender attraction (Fischer, 1995). When information regarding same-gender attraction is given, in most instances, it is presented in such a negative, derogatory, and dehumanizing way (e.g., fundamentalist religion) that the adolescent's exploration is bombarded with feelings of guilt, shame, and fear. In many instances, such feelings lead to depression and

6 insecurity, which may serve as trajectories to school problems, substance abuse, running away, prostitution, and suicide (Savin-Williams, 1994). Sexual identity issues have been noted as one of the key risk factors for adolescent suicide (Rotheram-Borus, Hunter, & Rosario, 1994; S. T. Russell, 2003; Schneider, Farberow, & Kruks, 1989), with gay and lesbian youth being three times more likely to commit suicide than heterosexual youth (Gibson, 1989). A study conducted by Gibson found that 30% of teen suicides completed were committed by youth dealing with sexual identity issues. A more recent study indicated that homosexual and bisexual adolescent males were seven times more likely to have attempted suicide than their heterosexual peers (Remafedi, French, Story, Resnick, & Blum, 1998). In most instances, the primary reason for suicidal attempts and suicide was not the realization of same- gender attraction but the debilitating effects of growing up in a homophobic society (Savin-Williams, 1994). Additionally, studies indicate that sexual minority youth (a) are confronted with physical and verbal abuse (Anthanases & Larrabee, 2003; Cato & Canetto, 2003; Harris Interactive & GLSEN [Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, formerly known as GLSTN]), 2005; Henning-Stout, James, & Macintosh, 2000; Human Rights Watch, 2001; Safe Schools Coalition of Washington, 1995); (b) have a disproportionately high dropout rate compared to the general student population (GLSEN, 2005b; 2006; GLSTN-Detroit, 1996; Uribe, 1994 ); (c) suffer from comorbid alcohol and drug abuse (Blake et al., 2001; Jordan, 2000; Orenstein, 2001; Thompson & Johnston, 2003; Wu et al., 2004); and (d) find the educational milieu to be more stressful than their heterosexual peers (Harris Interactive & GLSEN, 2005; GLSTN-Detroit, 1996).

7 Sexual minority adolescents, once an invisible group, are becoming increasingly visible (Bailey & Phariss, 1996). The visibility of LGBT television personalities living openly, the media coverage of political and religious debates on the topics of same-sex marriage and civil unions, as well as an increasing number of LGBT individuals "coming out" to their families and friends, thus living openly and very visible in their neighborhoods, have raised awareness regarding same-gender attraction. Further, an increased emphasis on tolerance, embracing multiculturalism, and respecting diversity are helping to create an atmosphere wherein an increasing number of school-age youth are able to "recognize and label same-gender attractions at a very early age" (Floyd & Stein, 2002, p. 170). Therefore, sexual minority youth are accepting their sexual orientation, embracing it, and disclosing it to significant others at very young ages (Denizet-Lewis, 2009; Sanders & Rroll, 2000). Unfortunately, the increase in the number of visibly sexual minority students is also resulting in an increase in verbal harassment and various abuses towards these students coming from family, peers, and adults in the school setting (D'Augelli, 1998; D'Augelli & Hershberger, 1993; Evans, 1998). Dunham (1989) states, "What helping professionals are beginning to realize is that these 'invisible' students are becoming more visible each day through increased numbers of referrals to school counselors, school social workers, substance abuse personnel, and varied support staff (p. 5). Dunham's statement made 20 years ago appears to hold true today. Unfortunately, in spite of the increase in violence toward sexual minority students, school administrators, faculty, counselors, teachers, religious leaders, parents, and other helping professionals are not adequately responding to the problem (Thurlow, 2001).

8 In school settings, sexual minority youth, those perceived as being such, and, in some instances, those who simply associate with sexual minority youth (Malinsky, 1997), are frequently discriminated against, prejudged, verbally harassed, and physically and emotionally abused by both peers and adults. Often, the perpetrators of the harassment and abuse continue to do so without consequences for their behavior, sending a message to the harasser that his or her behavior is sanctioned, and to the harassed that his or her life has no sanctity (Human Rights Watch, 2001). With an increasing number of self-identified sexual minority students in the school setting, there is an increased need for affirming literature, resources and support groups on behalf of the students as well as skills training and understanding on the part of those who are currently working in schools or will be employed in the future (e.g., administrators, teachers, school counselors, school psychologists, bus drivers) (Pope, 2003). As previously stated, sexual minority students in the school setting are frequently discriminated against, face physical and emotional abuses by peers and adults, and are becoming more visible each day through increased numbers of referrals to school counselors. Therefore, how are school counselors responding to referrals regarding sexual minority students? What are the attitudes of school counselors toward sexual minority students? What perceptions do school counselors hold regarding their ability to effectively and competently work with sexual minority students? Do school counselors believe that they have been appropriately prepared and adequately trained to meet the needs of sexual minority students? Do school counselors believe that specialized training regarding sexual minority students is necessary and currently needed?

Full document contains 308 pages
Abstract: This study assessed the attitudes, skills, knowledge, graduate counseling training, and willingness to engage in professional development of Michigan school counselors regarding issues and concerns of students who identify as lesbian, gay, biattractional, transgender, and students who are questioning their attractional orientation (LGBTQ). A total of 120 Michigan school counselors completed useable surveys either online or a paper-and-pencil version at a Michigan school counseling conference. Descriptive statistics were calculated for the demographic variables age, gender, ethnicity, attractional/sexual orientation, and professional characteristics such as years of school counseling experience, school level, and school location (urban, suburban, rural). One-way ANOVAs were used to determine statistical significance for the previously mentioned independent variables with the dependent variables being the Attitudes, Skills/Experiences, and Knowledge subscales of the Sexual Orientation Counselor Competency Scale (SOCCS; Bidell, 2005), and overall rating of graduate school counseling training. Results indicated: (a) no statistically significant differences regarding attitudes among the independent variables; (b) statistical significance regarding skills/experiences was found only with the collapsed variables for ethnic background and attractional orientation, with White and nonheterosexual participants scoring higher on this subscale; and (c) regarding knowledge, statistical significance was found only with attractional/sexual orientation, with nonheterosexual participants scoring higher on knowledge of LGBTQ issues. Overall, school counselors in this study believed that their graduate school counseling training programs did not adequately prepare them to competently work with attractional minority students. Participants believed they were better prepared to work with gay males and lesbians and less prepared to work with biattractional, transgender, and questioning youth. The 30-39 age group believed themselves to be better prepared than older groups, and the 60 and above age group reported being the least prepared to work with LGBTQ students. Participants indicated they were willing to participate in professional development activities in this area and rated the top three continuing education activities as taking a course, attending an in- service training, and reading professional literature on LGBTQ issues Implications for school counselor education programs and continuing education are presented, and recommendations for future research are offered.