Strategies to Support LGBTQ+ Students in High Schools: What Did We Learn in Chicago Public Schools?

Elizabeth Jarpe-Ratner*, Booker Marshall, Maham Choudry, Marisa Wishart, Bianca Reid, Ernestina Perez, Michael Fagen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


In 2013, the Chicago Public Schools district received funding from the Division of Adolescent and School Health at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to implement a series of strategies aimed to reduce HIV, STIs (sexually transmitted diseases), and related risk behaviors among students. One such set of strategies included “safe and supportive environments” (SSE), aimed to support lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, and other LGBTQ+ students. SSE strategies included professional development and technical assistance provided to K–12 school staff (teachers, administrators, social workers, etc.) to implement the following practices: support for transgender and gender nonconforming students in accordance with district guidelines, use of LGBTQ+ inclusive curricula, posting of signs and symbols of support, and creation of Genders and Sexualities Alliance student clubs. To monitor progress and performance, both quantitative and qualitative process measure data were collected. Quantitative data consisted of key metrics such as number of staff trained and surveillance data collected through school health profiles in collaboration with the CDC. Qualitative data were gathered to understand barriers and facilitators to implementation of SSE practices via interviews with 55 school staff members and four focus groups with 31 high school students. Results indicated an increased uptake of all SSE activities across the 5-year funding period. Findings also reveal additional needed supports, such as increased availability and offering of professional development for all staff, support for staff in engaging parents, and ensuring the LGBTQ+ inclusive sexual health education curriculum is experienced as such by students. Current work to address these needs is described.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalHealth Promotion Practice
StateAccepted/In press - 2021


  • child/adolescent health
  • LGBT
  • minority health
  • process evaluation
  • program planning and evaluation
  • school health
  • technical assistance
  • training

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Nursing (miscellaneous)


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