Compared to both straight girls and queer boys, lesbian and bisexual teen girls are more likely to face suspension or expulsion in school, a new study reports.
Princeton University’s Joel Mittleman focused on 3,394 teenagers over the course of their lives for a population study called “Fragile Families and Childhood Wellbeing Study.” Mittleman’s latest report, which was released earlier this month, was based on respondents self-reporting gay attraction. While the sample isn’t a comprehensive overview of the U.S. population, it’s a window into the larger picture of what queer women experience during their teen years.
For starters, the study revealed that around 10 percent of teenage respondents experienced some form of same-sex attraction, with 8 percent attracted to people of their gender as well as another, and only 2 percent reporting attraction to just their own gender.
Of the teens who had experienced some form of queer attraction, 34 percent said they had faced suspension or expulsion from school, whereas only 28 percent of straight teens faced the same consequences. These expulsions and suspensions appear to be especially skewed toward girls. Teen girls that self-report attraction to other teen girls faced higher discipline rates than their straight counterparts, with the article’s abstract noting that gay attraction “is associated with 95 percent higher odds of discipline among girls.”
Meanwhile, straight and queer men faced few differences in disciplinary treatment. This, Mittleman stresses, doesn’t necessarily mean that straight, gay, and bisexual men are all treated equally. Rather, Mittleman’s study featured few queer men, which means the report is an invitation for further analysis into how disciplinary actions play out between queer and straight teens.
The report also found that queer teenage girls were more likely than straight teen girls to face some sort of learning disability, including ADHD. The study concludes that the current data is “plausibly consistent” with arguments that queer teens “continue to face discriminatory treatment in schools,” confirming activists’ message that school districts have to step up in order to protect their LGBTQ students.