Date of Award

Spring 5-7-2011

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Counseling and Psychological Services

First Advisor

Kris Varjas

Second Advisor

Joel Meyers

Third Advisor

Andy Roach

Fourth Advisor

Daphne Greenberg


Social justice within education increasingly has been emphasized over the past decade (Kraft, 2007; Oakes et al., 2000; Riester et al., 2002). Little is known about the demographic trends and the advocacy experiences of school-based social justice advocates such as Gay/Straight Alliance (GSA) advisors despite the established importance of teachers engaging in social justice advocacy within schools. Data were collected from a national sample (N = 262) of GSA advisors to further the understanding of the demographic characteristics and the experiences of these social justice advocates and to investigate the relationships between these variables. An ethnographic survey (Schensul, Schensul, & LeCompte, 1999) was utilized for data collection in which the language and experiences reported by GSA advisors (Graybill et al., 2009; Watson et al., 2010) were incorporated. Using an ecological model established in a previous study with GSA advisors (Watson et al., 2010), the individual-, school-, and sociocultural-level characteristics that affect advisors were examined. The results suggested that this sample of GSA advisors was a demographically homogenous group with 67.3% female, 85.7% White, 72.2% who voted Democrat, and 77.1% who were educated at the Master‟s level or higher. Exploratory factor analysis identified two dimensions (i.e., Barriers, Facilitators) by which the advisors appeared to define their experiences when advocating for LGBT youth. Hierarchical regression analyses suggested that at the individual level, experiencing negative personal and professional consequences to advocating and the
level of self-perceived preparedness to advocate based on prior training contributed to the variability in the advisors‟ experiences with social justice advocacy. At the sociocultural level, advisors in rural schools reported more barriers and fewer facilitators to advocating. Overall, all seven predictors entered, including those at the individual (i.e., experiencing negative personal or professional consequences to advocating, level of self-perceived preparedness to advocate), school (i.e., school resources, school size), and sociocultural levels (i.e., region of the country, community type), accounted for 33.0% (p < .05) of the variance in the Barriers and 10.6% (p < .05) of the variance in the Facilitators to advocating for LGBT youth in schools.