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Associations Between School Absence and School Violence by Sexual Identity

  • Richard Lowry
    Correspondence
    Address correspondence to: Richard Lowry, MD, MS, Office of the Director, National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1600 Clifton Road, Northeast, Mail stop US8-6, Atlanta GA 30329.
    Affiliations
    Office of the Director, National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia
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  • Katrina Kennedy
    Affiliations
    Division of Violence Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia

    Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education, Oak Ridge, Tennessee
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  • Michelle M. Johns
    Affiliations
    Division of Adolescent and School Health, National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia
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  • Christopher R. Harper
    Affiliations
    Division of Violence Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia
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  • Natalie J. Wilkins
    Affiliations
    Division of Adolescent and School Health, National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia
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      Introduction

      Sexual minority youth are disproportionately exposed to school violence compared with their heterosexual peers. It is unknown whether the associations between school absence and exposure to school violence vary by sexual identity.

      Methods

      In 2021, data were combined from the 2015, 2017, and 2019 national Youth Risk Behavior Surveys to produce nationally representative samples of U.S. high-school students who identified as gay/lesbian (n=1,061), identified as bisexual (n=3,210), were not sure of their sexual identity (n=1,696), or identified as heterosexual (n=35,819). Associations were examined between 3 school violence exposures (being threatened/injured with a weapon at school, being bullied at school, and being in a physical fight at school) and school absence due to safety concerns. In each sample, multivariable logistic regression models were used to calculate adjusted prevalence ratios adjusted for sex, race/ethnicity, grade, current substance use, being offered/sold drugs at school, feeling sad/hopeless, and suicidal thoughts. Adjusted prevalence ratios were considered statistically significant if 95% CIs did not include 1.0.

      Results

      Exposure to school violence and school absence due to safety concerns were more prevalent among sexual minority students than among heterosexual students. Associations between exposure to school violence and school absence due to safety concerns were similar across sexual identity groups. For example, school absence was associated with being threatened/injured with a weapon at school among gay/lesbian (adjusted prevalence ratio=3.00), bisexual (adjusted prevalence ratio=3.66), those not sure (adjusted prevalence ratio=4.56), and heterosexual (adjusted prevalence ratio=3.75) students.

      Conclusions

      Associations between school absenteeism and school violence exist in each sexual identity group. Therefore, programs providing safe and supportive school environments may result in reduced absenteeism among all students.
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