Examination of School Counselors’ Perceptions Regarding LGBTQ Safety Policies in Northern New Jersey High School Settings: A Qualitative Study

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This qualitative study examined 20 high school counselors’ perceptions of their experience serving LGBTQ adolescents in New Jersey. To begin addressing the gap in the literature, the purpose of the qualitative dissertation study is to examine high school counselors’ perceptions of and experiences with the LGBTQ population’s issues in northern New Jersey high schools. The qualitative study is a phenomenological inquiry that inspects high school counselors' experiences related to the lives of LGBTQ students in their communities. The four overarching research questions guiding this qualitative study were (a) "What are high school counselors’ perceptions of FERPA, 1974, FERPA, 2016, and Title IX federal law used to protect the LGBTQ population?," (b) "What are high school counselors’ perspectives of school district policies and procedures regarding LGBTQ adolescents’ needs?," (c) What are high school counselors’ perspectives on professional development training related to LGBTQ students’ needs?," and (d) "What are common issues high school counselors have encountered as major barriers for the LGBTQ population, and how have school counselors handled these issues?" The phenomenological inquiry allowed me to understand how members of the LGBTQ community were treated in their high school settings according to their school counselors. For this study, one-on-one open-ended semi-structured interviews with high school counselors were conducted using Zoom, and each interview took approximately 40 to 60 minutes to complete. To explore diverse participant experiences and contextual differences, this qualitative study took place at various high schools across northern New Jersey urban school settings. School counselors were recruited via emailed recruitment invitations to high school counselors and school district guidance counselor supervisors. Data were collected through 21 virtual open-ended interview sessions; participants’ questionnaire responses, transcripts from the Zoom sessions, and researcher field notes leading to summaries of interview recordings completed directly after each interview session. Analyzing qualitative data research was a continuous task that started immediately after data collection. Data were coded and analyzed after the data were reviewed and the interviews transcribed (Galman, 2013). Consistent with this approach, data from the virtual semi-structured open-ended interviews were continuously reexamined. Interview data was carefully coded and grouped into categories as themes were identified. I relied on open coding, research questions, the conceptual framework, transcript, and audio recordings to analyze the data. Research data were reviewed numerous times through an interactive process and coded and analyzed for meaning. Twenty high school counselors aged 38 to 75 were the participants in this research. Themes emerging from both virtual interview sessions and participants questionnaire were presented together and divided into five overarching thematic categories included (a) counselor advocacy, (a) counselors’ perspectives of district policies, (c) counselors’ experiences of LGBTQ challenges, (d) counselors’ experiences of LGBTQ “ coming out,” and (e) counselors’ view of faculty support/collaboration. The findings demonstrate the advantages of fostering counselors’ advocacy to provide LGBTQ adolescents with resiliency, respect, and affirmation. In addition, the results of this study raised some broader implications for future research into providing LGBTQ-related services and resources in school communities.

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  • 02/16/2024
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