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Date of Award

Spring 2024

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Department or Program Affiliation

Woodring School of Education

Degree Name

Doctorate of Education


Education Leadership and Inclusive Teaching

First Advisor

Robertson, Wayne Thomas

Second Advisor

Larsen, Donald

Third Advisor

Irish, Justin


We are witnessing a shift in how some students both identify themselves and are welcomed into our schools and communities. The experiences of students who identify as gender and sexuality diverse can vary distinctly depending upon geography, individual, peer, and community factors. Most impactful in these experiences are the structures, culture, and support systems that individual schools and districts can intentionally put into place to promote inclusion, safety, and voice for this population of students. While we observe increasing concerns regarding mental health issues such as depression and anxiety, we also notice an increased level of empowerment and connection in schools where gender and sexuality diverse students report they are provided increased safety, voice, and leadership in their environments. When schools and communities effectively create inclusive cultures and support systems, students can connect in more substantial ways and demonstrate improved social- emotional and academic outcomes.

This study builds upon existing research through a phenomenological inquiry regarding the experiences of students who identify as gender and sexuality diverse in our schools. Further, the study will explore intentional actions and best practices that schools and educators may take to create a sense of belonging and increased outcomes for students who identify as gender and sexuality diverse. The findings and recommendations of the research capture both student voice and practitioner experience on how schools may utilize community resources and take focused actions for safety and support for students in the GSD community. As we address social justice issues, providing key stances and school culture strategies, inclusive spaces, and strategies to increase belonging and voice for all can be accomplished, particularly for those in the gender and sexuality diverse community and those furthest from academic justice.




inclusion, safety, voice, empowerment, belonging, support, gender & sexuality diverse, LGBTQ+, social-emotional learning


Western Washington University

OCLC Number


Subject – LCSH

Sexual minority students--Education (Middle school); Sexual minority students--Education (Secondary); Gay students--Education (Middle school); Gay students--Education (Secondary); Gender identity in education; Inclusive education; School environment--Social aspects; Belonging (Social psychology); Safe spaces




doctoral dissertations




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