Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Program Name/Specialization

Community Psychology


Faculty of Science

First Advisor

Dr. Robb Travers

Advisor Role



Twenty-six key stakeholders from schools in Waterloo Region, Ontario, participated in semi-structured, open-ended interviews for this dissertation. They included students, teachers, school board representatives in administrator and superintendent roles, trustees, and community service providers. This study explored the experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth in publicly-funded schools, the effect of those experiences on their mental health and well-being, and the success of strategies, programs, and policies implemented by schools to address LGBT youth issues. It also examined the perspectives of participants on Bill 13, Ontario’s Accepting Schools Act, particularly strengths and weaknesses of the bill in terms of mandating initiatives that would promote positive school climates that are accepting and inclusive of all students, as well as potential benefits and challenges of the legislation. Findings revealed a dichotomy in the perspectives of participants that led to the proposal of a specificity-flexibility dialectical framework in this dissertation. Applying the framework to initiatives that could be readily interpreted as adherence to the mandates of Bill 13 in Waterloo Region school boards, a theoretical interpretation of how the actual positive outcomes resulted from the legislation of Bill 13 was posited. It became apparent from the theoretical interpretation that the participants’ perspectives over two and a half years ago were considerably foretelling of the benefits and positive outcomes that would transpire from the legislation of Bill 13. There were positive outcomes that resulted from sections of the bill that exercised specificity by explicitly mandating the implementation of strategies, programs, and policies in publicly funded schools that have been empirically and historically proven to support LGBT students. There were also positive outcomes that resulted from sections of the bill that allowed for flexibility so that stakeholders could implement new, creative, and customized initiatives to navigate challenges distinct to each of their schools, as well as address LGBT youth issues that were neglected or left unresolved by previous interventions. Researchers who collaborate closely with policymakers could potentially utilize the specificity-flexibility dialectical framework in the future in order to maximize the benefits that could result from a proposed bill advocating for marginalized minority populations. An Integrated Theoretical Model for Supporting LGBT Student Mental Health and Well-Being that was constructed at the end of this dissertation also holds promise for future use in advocacy research.

Convocation Year


Convocation Season


Previous Versions

Aug 6 2015