Dispatches from the Creation Wars

The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) has put out the first major study on gay parents and school involvement and it finds that LGBT parents are more involved in their childrens’ education than the average straight parents, often by a significant margin. The study involved the LGBT parents of nearly 750 children, whose involvement they compared to results of previous studies of involvement by the general parental population. Among its findings:

LGBT parents are more likely to be involved in their children’s education than the general parent population. Compared to data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), LGBT parents are more likely to attend a parent-teacher conference in the past year (94% to 77%) and more likely to volunteer (67% to 42%).

Those are very significant differences. This isn’t a percent or two, it’s a full 25% more volunteering and 17% more attending conferences. Unfortunately, it also found significant discrimination and harassment of the children of those parents:

# More than half (53%) of parents described various forms of exclusion from their school communities: being excluded or prevented from fully participating in school activities and events, being excluded by school policies and procedures, and being ignored and feeling invisible.

# LGBT parents reported mistreatment from other parents in the school community and even from their children’s peers at school – 26% of LGBT parents in the survey reported mistreatment from other parents and 21% reported hearing negative comments about being LGBT from students.

This is not at all a surprise, of course. My only question about the methodology is that this study appears to have relied on self-reporting by the parents themselves. If the studies they used for comparison on rates of parental involvement did not similarly involve self-reporting, they’re comparing apples to oranges.

We would, after all, expect a higher result on self-reported surveys than on actual counts reported by the school because some portion of parents on a self-report survey are going to claim more involvement than they actually engage in. If they are comparing two different types of methodologies, it points the way to a better study that can be done and should be done on the subject.