Parents’ Attitudes About Safe Schools Policies and Practices: Repositioning Parents as Youth Allies Through a Rights-Based Framework

Timothy B. Tasker, Christina R. Peter, Stacey S. Horn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


The vast majority of young people experience gender or sexuality-based harassment in schools. Effective strategies exist for addressing this problem; however, little is known about parents’ attitudes toward such safe schools policies and practices. In light of recent legislation and case law that reify parental rights over children’s lives, parents’ attitudes toward these issues represent an important focus for research and intervention. In the current study, 301 Illinois parents completed an online survey assessing their attitudes about implementing specific safe schools policies and practices as well as their knowledge about their children’s harassment experiences in schools. Results demonstrate that parents overwhelmingly support practices that protect students from harm but are somewhat more ambivalent toward those that allow children to develop and assert agency. Though some demographic differences were observed in support for safe schools policies and practices, knowledge that their child had been harassed still predicted increased parental support after controlling for demographic effects. Our findings suggest that parents should be viewed as allies, rather than opponents, in the push to implement safe schools policies and practices. In addition, parental attitudes constitute a critical pathway through which young people may be able to affect change within their schools and communities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)299-309
Number of pages11
JournalSexuality Research and Social Policy
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2014
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors thank the entire Project SafeSPACES team for their support and recommendations. In addition, we acknowledge Drs. Stephen T. Russell and Mark Padilla, as well as two anonymous reviewers, for providing comments and suggestions that helped us strengthen this manuscript. This study was funded, in part, by a grant from the Ford Foundation to the third author. It was approved by the University of Illinois at Chicago Institutional Review Board under protocol #2011-1092. Portions of this study have been presented in paper format at the 2013 Biennial Meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development in Seattle, WA on 18 April 2013.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014, Springer Science+Business Media New York.


  • Bullying
  • Gender harassment
  • Homophobic harassment
  • Parent attitudes
  • School policy
  • Youth rights


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