Discrimination based on one’s group membership can be a significant source of stress. When it occurs frequently, it can have a long-term impact on both physical and mental health, as per the Minority Stress Model. Unfortunately, a recent poll reveals that 45% of Romanian LGBT+ respondents have experienced discrimination in at least one aspect of life within the past year. This makes Romania one of the EU nations with the lowest rates of LGBT+ inclusion.
Although all LGBT+ individuals may experience minority stress, younger sexual minorities appear to be at greater risk of suffering negative effects on their mental and physical health due to the stigma. Therefore, there is a pressing need for interventions that promote inclusivity in schools, where young people spend most of their time.
Because teachers can be important catalysts for change, we aim to help them improve their attitudes towards the LGBT+ community and provide them with the necessary tools to assist pupils and students. To achieve this, this project takes an evidence-based approach by (1) designing an intervention based on empirical findings showing efficiency to reduce LGBT+ bias; and, (2) testing the efficiency of this intervention on Romanian teachers in a randomized control trial.
We developed a culturally appropriate psychosocial intervention that combines educational elements with contact with LGBT+ individuals, evidenced to be the most effective way of reducing LGBT+ stigma. It also included perspective-taking and self-efficacy elements that were found useful in other bias-reducing interventions.
The intervention was designed for online delivery and included a recorded presentation, animations, testimonials by LGBT+ individuals, and two interactive exercises. It was designed to last for about one hour and to be delivered in groups of up to 25 people.
The intervention was evidence-based and culturally sensitive, with feedback received from local LGBT+ educational and advocacy NGOs. It also focused on the role of social support and family/school acceptance in improving mental health and the danger of conversion therapy.
The intervention also showcased various tools that can be used by teachers to combat bullying in schools. These tools include Romania’s new anti-bullying law and a bullying protocol, lesson plans that can be used to discuss and combat bullying in the classroom, UNICEF’s intervention model for bullying, a procedure to report bullying and harassment with the Romanian National Council for Combating Discrimination, and support groups for LGBT+ students in Romania. We made sure to share links to all resources during the presentation and also sent them in PDF format to all participants.
Following data collection, the intervention itself was also provided via a link on YouTube in order to ensure that it could be used in turn by teachers in the classroom.
Intervention design and outcomes
Our study focused on collecting data from teachers and counselors who work in Romanian public schools. As the language used in the intervention and measures was Romanian, we required all participants to be fluent in the language. Participants who agreed to take part and completed the study were awarded a participation certificate, which could be used for continuing education credits. Additionally, they were given the chance to win a gift certificate worth 500 RON by entering a raffle.
To determine if the intervention was effective, we conducted a randomized control trial, in which teachers were randomly assigned to either complete the intervention before assessing outcomes (experimental group) or after assessing outcomes (control group). We anticipate that the intervention will have a positive impact on the attitudinal, cognitive, behavioral, and affective measures of LGBT+ bias among teachers. Specifically, we predict that teachers in the experimental group will experience the following compared to those in the control group:
1. More positive attitudes towards LGBT+ individuals
2. Increased factual knowledge about LGBT+ issues
3. Stronger behavioral intentions and self-efficacy for addressing LGBT+ issues in the classroom
4. More positive affect towards LGBT+ individuals
We also plan to conduct a brief mixed methods follow-up study at 6-8 months post-participation to investigate the potential long-term effects of training.
Discrimination can have a severe impact on young LGBT+ individuals. Teachers have the potential to reduce such discrimination and provide support to students in need, but they require the proper tools. To address this issue, we have developed an online intervention specifically for teachers and school counselors. The aim is to minimize negative attitudes towards the LGBT+ community and equip them with the necessary skills and confidence to tackle bullying and discrimination in the classroom.