Gay, lesbian and bisexual teenagers in the United States are far more likely to be harshly punished by schools and courts than their straight peers, even though they are less likely to engage in serious misdeeds, according to a study published in the medical journal Pediatrics.
“Gay, lesbian and bisexual kids are being punished by police, courts and by school officials, and it’s not because they’re misbehaving more,” said Kathryn E. W. Himmelstein, the study’s lead author. She began the research as an undergraduate student at Yale.
The findings were based on a national sample of more than 15,000 middle and high school students. Researchers asked young people about alcohol abuse, lying to parents, shoplifting and vandalism, along with such serious crimes as burglary and selling drugs.
The survey found that LGB youth were slightly more likely to report minor and moderate nonviolent misbehavior than their straight peers, but less likely to engage in serious crimes. But they were far more likely to be stopped by the police, arrested or convicted of a crime.
In addition, teenagers who said they had experienced feelings of same-sex attraction were more likely to have been expelled from school than other students.
Girls who labeled themselves as lesbian or bisexual appeared to be at highest risk for punishment, experiencing 50 percent more police stops and about twice the risk of arrest and conviction as heterosexual girls who reported similar levels of misconduct.