Graduation Year


Document Type

Master's Thesis


Master of Science



Program Director

Jennifer Lucko, PhD

First Reader

Matthew E. Davis, PhD

Second Reader

Elizabeth Truesdell


About a third of teenagers experience an anxiety disorder, with steadily increasing numbers (McCarthy, 2019). LGBTQ+ students have a history of being a group without a voice because the dominant gender classification was a binary male or female model. They have seldom dared to express and identify their real selves. According to Lewis (2020), this form of oppression could make them feel unwelcome, overlooked, and unsafe, eventually creating tremendous anxiety. This qualitative research focused on understanding what creates an inclusive and safe learning environment for all students, including students who identify as LGBTQ+. Interviews were conducted with students, parents, and educators working with students who identified as LGBTQ+ in Marin County, California. The first finding identified how providing diverse opportunities in school contributed to an inclusive environment. These opportunities fall into several categories, including recognizing a diverse student body, honoring diverse characteristics and personality traits, and providing diverse institutional structures. Another major participant finding was that building relationships is central to LGBTQ+ students, which is demonstrated in the aspects of increasing the sense of being heard, having a relaxed learning and socializing environments, and building community norms together with choice. The third finding is a call for further transformation, and includes four major sub findings. The first argues for adopting a non-binary model for gender diverse students. The second calls for improved leadership, role modeling and curriculum revolution. The third addresses ongoing rejection and stigmatization, and the need for professional education and activities of support to provide the care needed. The last sub finding is a call for funding to endorse these diverse initiatives.

IRB Number