Factors Impacting Implementation of Evidence-Based Strategies to Create Safe and Supportive Schools for Sexual and Gender Minority Students

Published:September 08, 2018DOI:



      The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends six evidence-based strategies to improve safety and support for sexual and gender minority (SGM) youth in U.S. schools. However, only a small minority of schools implement all strategies. This study draws on implementation science to assess contextual challenges to strategy implementation.


      Semistructured interviews were conducted with at least two stakeholders at each of 42 high schools in New Mexico. Interviews consisted of open-ended questions centered on attitudes toward, access to, and availability of school and community supports for SGM youth, school policies, and practices, and organizational factors believed to impact implementation. Transcripts were imported into NVivo 11 for iterative coding and qualitative analysis.


      We identified eleven overarching sets of factors related to the preparedness of schools to implement the evidence-based strategies: (1) political climate; (2) community context; (3) community resources; (4) policies and practices; (5) staff knowledge and exposure to SGM issues; (6) training deficits; (7) prevalence of neutrality discourses suggesting SGM students should not be singled out for “special treatment” or intervention; (8) student attitudes and support; (9) de facto safe spaces; (10) health education curricula; and (11) pragmatic considerations, such as time, staff turnover, and workloads. Key factors believed to hinder implementation included lack of resources, staffing concerns, and knowledge deficits.


      These results can be used to inform the development of implementation strategies to modify school health systems from within to best support evidence-based practices for SGM youth and other stigmatized populations.


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