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Episode 251 - Dr. Hilary Copp and Dr. William Koehler: A Comparison of Urban and Rural Middle and High School Teachers' Attitudes and Observations About LGBT Students

Monday, November 05, 2018, 8:27:10 AM

Image of Drs. Hilary Copp and William Koehler

In this episode, our guests Dr. Hilary Copp and Dr. William Koehler discuss their work examining urban and rural middle and high school teachers' attitudes and observations of their LGBT students. Our guests describe the challenges faced by schools, policymakers, and practitioners as they attempt to help LGBT students navigate their environments with acceptance, safety, and dignity.

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Average Rating: 2stars  sw521 review - tyler puchlerz, Sunday, February 14, 2021

By Tyler Puchlerz :

I found the topic of their study to be very important in addressing homophobia in schools. However, I thought their focus on bullying by peers, and the staff's reaction to such, left out much discussion needed for policymakers, schools, and practitioners to follow through with effective interventions. Specifically discussions about trans students. Interventions by staff to trans students' experience of bullying and harassment is only one factor of many when trying to create a safe, accepting, and dignified environment for trans students. Schools will need to evaluate their own policies regarding bathroom and locker room use, dress code, access to sports teams, and more. This will conflict more heavily with homophobic and transphobic staff’s beliefs and will require more intervention beyond framing this issue as an attempt to create a safe learning environment. Any change in such policy will likely be met with scrutiny and debate from parents and local government. However, policy change is necessary to ensure trans students’ feel accepted by their school.



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Average Rating: 5stars  podcast review, Saturday, February 06, 2021

By Anonymous :

This podcast explained the ways that school location can drastically change the students’ and teachers’ acceptance levels of LGBT students. Although I expected that the rural teachers would have less favorable views on the LGBT population than their urban counterparts, I was surprised to learn that urban teachers observed more name calling and bullying towards LBGT students. I would be interested in a study with a larger sample size with schools in different areas of the country to see if the findings would be similar in other areas. I think this data outlines the importance of education for teachers and parents on how to ensure all their students feel safe and comfortable in school.

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Average Rating: 5stars  podcast review, Sunday, February 09, 2020

By Juliette :

I found the discussion of the LGBTQ+ population in high schools, and teachers attitude towards these students to be very powerful. There are various challenges that LGBTQ+ students face that can have a lasting effect on them. Dr. Hilary Copp and Dr. William Koehler discuss the many ways to ensure a safe and comfortable environment for these students, and the important role social workers play in this. They discuss the importance of educating teachers and students on the topic of LGBTQ+, and how they can advocate for these students. It is vital that teachers are aware of how to effectively provide help and support to students, and can really make all the difference in a students experience in school. There was an emphasis on family involvement, and the benefits of supporting the family as a whole. I found this to be an incredibly important point to bring up. Although the focus may be on one student or individual, there are other people who are impacted by these situations, which is important to be aware of.


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Average Rating: 5stars  podcast review, Sunday, February 09, 2020

By Hanna Josker :

This podcast was interesting because it helped me understand some of the main differences between the ways teachers view LGBTQ+ students in rural and urban schools. It also provided ways in which social workers can work to advocate for LGBTQ+ youth. It is important to research issues on this topic because bullying individuals who are LGBTQ+ is common in schools. Schools need to address the issues and concerns around LGBTQ+ students because more students are coming out and they are coming out at a younger age.
According to the podcast, the study found that teachers in urban schools heard more name calling against LGBTQ+ students compared to teachers in rural schools. This is in part due to urban schools having a more diverse population of students than rural schools. Rural school teachers had significantly poorer attitudes than urban schools of their LGBTQ+ students. When students come out at LGBTQ+ in rural schools, staff are not quite sure how to handle the situation within the school
This is where the role of social workers is important for LGBTQ+ youth in all schools. Social workers have the job to help vulnerable populations and advocate for them. Social workers can educate teachers and staff in schools about LGBTQ+ populations. Staff members in all schools have good intentions for their students but they might not always know what to do with the growing LGBTQ+ population.
Social workers can offer support to school staff so that they can successfully support their LGBTQ+ population at school. At my middle/high school, we had pride clubs and a gay/straight alliance. These clubs are ways to support LGBTQ+ students and they are a way for teachers to become involved in advocating for those students. As mentioned in the podcast, it is important for teachers to be involved in the LGBTQ+ population in their schools (despite their beliefs) because it can help create a productive learning environment for them.

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Average Rating: 5stars  timely information regarding lgbtq students and school staff, Sunday, February 09, 2020

By Alicia Ransom :

This podcast discusses the LGBTQ experience in a school setting. We know that the LGBTQ population has higher rates of self-harming behavior, suicidality, truancy, and bullying. Prof. Sobota, in his introduction, recalls the death of Matthew Shepherd, killed 20 years ago for no other reason than being gay. With progress and education, stigma and prejudice remain. The study conducted by Dr. Copp & Dr. Koehler discusses how the attitude of school staff affect the acceptance (or lack of) and treatment of LGBTQ students. The focus was on the experience of LGBTQ students in the rural and urban school settings. There was not a large difference in behaviors reported, but the urban schoolteachers noted more negative language and derogatory name calling. In the rural setting, the question must be asked, is there enough education regarding the LGBTQ population? Could there be a lack of acceptance or even a disdain for these students? Not only is the behavior of the faculty members towards these students a defining moment in the school experience, their lack of positive behavior has an effect as well. Staff may not have experience with those that are different. Staff may have grown up in a less accepting household or community. Ultimately they may simply not have the exposure that others do. This material suggests that a faculty member may ignore an incident of bullying or harassment involving an LGBTQ student, simply because they have not been regularly exposed to this population. It is probable that some faculty, untrained or inexperienced, could easily overlook an incident. If faculty does not act immediately and let all know that this is unacceptable, the harassment could continue. Dr. Copp & Dr. Koehler remind us that as social workers, it is our job to educate, lead, and support the most vulnerable. This research is important to improve the experience of LGBTQ students so that all might enjoy an educational setting that is encouraging, supportive, and safe.



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Average Rating: 5stars  episode 251 review, Monday, February 03, 2020

By Allie A :

I thought it was interesting how Will pointed out that the research demonstrated rural faculty showing poorer attitudes about LGBTQ students than urban faculty; however, there was no significant difference in the number of behaviors they were observing among the students and faculty. This immediately led me to wonder if the urban teachers included in the study just had a heightened awareness or understanding of the bullying and issues LGBTQ students are faced with. I appreciated how Hillary went on to point out this possibility by stating that having negative attitudes can sometimes be connected to school staff I’m overlooking anti-LGBT incidents in or failing to report these incidents. Additionally, the speakers brought up an important perspective by mentioning the lack of systematic lack of training that many teachers have in diversity and cultural competency. I completely agree that it is crucial for school staff to be trained in cultural competency and bystander intervention to provide their students of all different backgrounds with the safest learning environment possible.


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Average Rating: 5stars  important and insightful, Sunday, February 10, 2019

By Mel :

I appreciate this podcast and the research of Dr. Copp and Dr. Koehler for several reasons. We know that LGBTQ youth are at a higher risk of negative health outcomes such as suicidal ideation, depression, and substance use disorder, and that the school environments in which youth spend such a huge portion of their lives has a profound impact on their well being, for better or for worse. Much of the research and resources for LGBTQ youth are biased towards youth living in urban environments, and resources are significantly more limited for these and other vulnerable youth populations living in rural communities. I was not surprised to hear that there was no significant different in the number of instances of anti-LGBT behaviors in rural and urban settings, but that teachers in urban schools reported these instances significantly more than their rural counterparts. I assumed that this had to do with the personal ideology of school staff in rural versus urban environments. What had not occurred to me was the role of homogeny in this discrepancy; that not only are individuals in rural environments less likely to encounter people who are different from them, challenging and opening their worldview and increasing their capacity for acceptance of difference, but that in more homogenous school environments, educators are potentially less exposed to or experienced with catching and addressing instances of identity-based bullying or harassment.
As social workers, it is crucial that we consider the context in our work with clients, and tailor our approach to the needs of the specific individual, population, or community. Research like this is so important in our ability to meet the needs of or clients, particularly when working with key stakeholders and change-makers like teachers who can have such a profound impact on the well-being of vulnerable populations such as their LGBTQ students.

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Average Rating: 5stars  a rural reflection , Saturday, February 09, 2019

By Brooke :

As someone who currently works in a rural school I found Dr. Copp and Dr. Koehler’s research much needed. Bringing awareness to how LGBTQ students are at an increased risk of suicide, mental and physical health needs, increased absenteeism, and lower grades is necessary for all school personnel to be knowledgeable of. I find it problematic that we as social workers are aware of how the school environment impacts LGBTQ students, but many other school personnel often are not. In addition to this, it is concerning that there’s continue to be many rural schools that are not prepared or educated on the best ways to support LGBTQ students. Despite, this struggle I appreciate Dr. Copp and Dr. Koehler’s statement that “teachers often have great intentions, but no idea how to begin to support these students.” This really resonated with me. In my experience, this accurately reflects many of the teachers and school employees I work with. However, it is also important to acknowledge that there are still those who struggle with supporting LGBTQ students because there is a conflict with their own beliefs. The way in which Dr. Copp and Dr. Koehler addressed this conflict by making it about safety and the importance of all students feeling safe in school is a practical way to address those who may feel conflicted.
As Dr. Copp and Dr. Koehler pointed out, we as social workers have an obligation to educate and provide school personnel with the resources necessary to support LGBTQ students. This includes helping teachers communicate with families, and supporting a trauma-informed learning environment in the classroom and throughout the school community. Inevitably, regardless of what type of school district you work in, teachers must reflect on the reasons that they have gone into the teaching profession- to help kids. For this reason, teachers must realize that they play a critical role in creating a safe environment for the LGBTQ students.


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Average Rating: 4stars  episode 251 response , Wednesday, February 06, 2019

By Miranda :

First, I will start out by saying that I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this interview. I believe that the work Dr. Copp and Dr. Koehler are doing is extremely important to individuals in a vulnerable population, especially in academic settings. Dealing with individuals in middle and high school, these children are at some overwhelming time periods in their lives as they are managing to identify who they are as an individual, and how they work and interact within a greater society.
Addressing LGBTQ students in both urban and rural settings is important as well due to the fact that differing geographic locations will of course bring differing populations. I personally grew up in a rather rural area, yet my collegiate setting is very diverse. In each different setting, people have very contrasting viewpoints and may view people differently. A very important topic the interviewees discussed was educating teachers about LGBTQ students and how to manage bullying and creating safe spaces for students. Many teachers may not undergo supplement training for handling bullying in the LGBTQ population and need to learn more about helping these students feel comfortable in their learning setting.
Education is the key to liberation and the start to dismantling ignorance. The work Dr. Copp and Dr. Koehler are doing is very important to promote a progressive and inclusive society.


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Average Rating: 5stars  growing up in a rural town, Monday, February 04, 2019

By Rebecca Adinolfe :

I admired Dr. William Koehler’s language around suicide. He said “died by suicide” rather than committed suicide, which makes it seem like a crime. The issue of bullying around LGBTQ students has become a policy issue because of the publicity it has seen recently in media. Schools are facing this because students are identifying gender and addressing issues around their sexuality at an early age, which many schools and teachers are not prepared. The question in mind is what training do these teachers need to address these issues properly and be educated? How do teachers’ attitudes differ from rural and urban populations? Overall there was no significant difference in the number of behaviors or types of behaviors they were observing among the student and faculty populations. In rural settings, there were poorer attitudes toward LGBTQ issues than in Urban. This fact resonated with me because I grew up in a small, white, Christian, town. Teachers and peers in my school didn’t recognize all the microaggressions and bullying that existed around LGBTQ issues because they had negative attitudes, to begin with, and didn’t see it as an issue at all. Social workers in schools can create awareness, educate teachers, and create a safe environment in school. Many schools have “no tolerance bullying policies,” but I do not know if many teachers fully understand what that means and therefore, how to enforce the policy. Social workers can aim to educate so that teachers and students can point out what LGBTQ discrimination looks like and how to point it out. In my rural town, I know that some people have a hard time changing their mindset, so it might be helpful to hold a meeting where the social worker guides but the teachers can speak their concerns and run the meeting. The social worker could use solution-focused techniques to address issues without making the teachers feel uncomfortable or controlled.

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Average Rating: 5stars  excellent research on lgbtq+ students, Monday, February 04, 2019

By Anonymous :

This podcast really resonated with me as someone who wants to be a future school social worker and identifies as queer. My hope is that I can help make schools a better environment for LGBTQ+ teens and actively help get rid of the stigma surrounding LGBTQ+ issues. Coming from a rural school myself, I was surprised to hear that they were better at seeking education. The school I came from looked down upon LGBTQ+ individuals and very few people identified as anything other than straight and cisgender. As legal protections are being taken away from LGBTQ+ students, it’s more important now than ever to make sure staff is educated and supportive of these children. Students are coming out as LGBTQ+ at a younger age and the resources to help them need to be in place. Personally, I did not feel safe exploring my sexuality until college due to strong homophobia at home. My parents were and still are actively homophobic and I have never told them how I identify. Through the use of bystander intervention theory, both Dr. Copp and Dr. Koehler brought up the important issue that bystander intervention is a process. Therefore, not everyone is born with the ability to properly interfere and people must first notice the need for change. A phrase I often like to say is that being an ally is a verb, not a noun. One must continually strive to become better and take it upon themselves to be educated on LGBTQ+ issues. I found this podcast very interesting and loved to hear what the findings were both for different grade levels and types of schools.

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Average Rating: 5stars  podcast review, Sunday, February 03, 2019

By Laura S. :

The work that Dr. Copp and Dr. Koehler is importatnt for the LGBTQ community in educational settings. It is critical to consider the health and well-being of this population in these arenas. The impact that schools can have on these individuals is apparent and creating safe spaces for LGBTQ kids is paramount. As stated in this podcast, it is important for educators to be familiar with issues related to gender identity in the adolescent population and to have the resources to make schools safer for this population.
Social workers can play an important role in educating staff on why individuals of the LGBTQ population are at a higher risk for suicide, bullying, mental health issues, higher absenteeism, and physical health issues. It is this education that will bring awareness to the specific challenges this group faces and in turn, hopefully create more acceptance and interventions to help this population thrive in educational settings. I found it to be a very helpful tactic when Dr. Copp and Dr. Koehler explained the issues to educators as it being important to create a safe space for all the students including LGBTQ individuals. This was helpful in creating a focus for staff and not making it an issue about personal beliefs or prejudices.
It is encouraging that so many more young people are feeling more liberated to express their sexual and gender identity freely at younger ages and acceptance has grown for LGBTQ people. In saying this, it is important to acknowledge that not all individuals are accepting and ensuring that LGBTQ people are safe is critical. Education is key in assisting this group among educators and peers. It is exciting that people like Dr. Copp and Dr. Koehler are doing the work that they do and I believe this is a hopeful step in ensuring that LGBTQ kids feel safe at school and in their lives.

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Average Rating: 5stars  episode 251, Thursday, January 31, 2019

By Sedaya :

This podcast was very informative because the social workers compared teachers of urban and rural schools’ views and observations on their LGBTQ students. It was interesting to see that the urban school teachers were more accepting of their LGBTQ students than the rural school teachers. However, the social workers went on to explain that many teachers do not know how to meet the needs of their LGBTQ students. That statement sparked an interest to me because as Dr. Copp stated many LGBTQ youth are more at risk for mental illness, suicidality, and bullying etc. Therefore, it is important for them to have someone to confide in because if their teachers cannot be a support to them that becomes a cause for concern. After listening to this podcast, I now realize how important it is for social workers who are educated on this topic to do trainings for faculty and staff, so they can become better supports for their students. Furthermore, this podcast has honestly educated me on the importance of having some type of knowledge of the LGBTQ community because students are coming out at younger ages; therefore whoever they confide in has to be able to be a support for them.

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Average Rating: 5stars  great discussion about the attitudes in schools towards lgbtq students, Wednesday, January 30, 2019

By Michael L :

I feel that this podcast did a great job of articulating some of the differences that an LGBTQ student can face whether they are in an urban or rural educational setting. I wasn’t shocked by the fact that attitudes of educators towards LGBTQ students in rural settings were more negative than those in urban settings, but I did find it encouraging that schools today (including those in rural communities) are seeking out resources to support their students and better understand what they are dealing with. When I was in high school, I feel like being a part of the LGBTQ community was still a very taboo subject that seemed to be swept under the rug. Back then, there should have been more resources made available to students and educators to help students navigate these complex issues. I think Dr. Koehler made an excellent point in the discussion of how social workers can be helpful in these situations. He touched on the idea that social workers should approach this by making it known they aren’t trying to change people’s personal beliefs on a given subject, but rather they are attempting to provide resources and education to create a better and safer environment for the students. In their discussion of bystander intervention theory, the presenters did a great job emphasizing how important exposure is to making positive changes in the attitudes of those with less experience dealing with LGBTQ issues. By breaking down some of these barriers, educators, and staff will be better equipped to notice negative behaviors once they better identify and understand the issues that LGBTQ individuals (and especially young students) can face.

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Average Rating: 5stars  wonderful use of minority stress theory and bystander intervention theory, Wednesday, January 30, 2019

By Liz Walsh :

This podcast jumped out to me because I remember what it was like to be in high school as an LGBTQ student, and when teachers to failed to intervene when I was in what I felt were unsafe and threatening situations, and for the school social worker to still handle it inappropriately. I thought this podcast did a wonderful job of discussing the shortcomings in these schools and more importantly, the reasons for these shortcomings, and how we can work to address them. These staff are often not intervening not because they don’t care, but because they often don’t know how or don’t confident in their ability to resolve such a situation. This made so much sense when Dr.s Copp and Koehler connected it to bystander intervention theory. I am familiar with this theory and had seen it applied in other situations, but it hadn’t occurred to me that it still applies here, even when we view teachers as an authority figure over students. They still have to go through the same five steps to appropriately intervene, and we as social workers can help with that third step of helping them feel motivated and capable to find a solution.

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