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Professor matches LGBT adults with teens for online ‘mentoring’ without parent consent

Taxpayers shell out $200,000 to help match gay adults with gay teens online

Teenagers who struggle with gender confusion or homosexual inclinations can get an adult mentor online — without their parents knowing.

University of Nebraska-Lincoln Professor Katie Edwards created the pilot program with the help of $203,050 from the National Institutes of Health.

She is a professor of educational psychology and works at the Nebraska Center for Research on Children, Youth, Families, and Schools, a university initiative.

This program differs from others that are in-person and require the permission of a parent or guardian, according to the grant summary.

A flaw in other programs for other LGBT teens is they “often require guardian permission; generally occur in person via community organizations which precludes TGMY in high stigma, rural areas of the United States from accessing such programs.” This pilot instead will “complete feasibility and pilot testing of a synchronous, group-delivered eHealth mentoring and skill-building program.”

The program will recruit 140 LGBT youth from social media sites and LGBT organizations. Half will then be paired with a mentor, while the other 70 will be put on a waitlist as the control group.

The College Fix contacted Edwards twice via email in the past several weeks to ask about the vetting and recruitment process for mentors but she has yet to respond.

Edwards also studied “intimate partner violence” and its link to a campus’s “Pride Index.”

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An ethicist at the Ethics and Public Policy Center raised concerns about the program, particularly because it does not require parental permission.

“Deliberately pairing adult strangers with children without parental knowledge, let alone consent, is a bad idea especially because these adult mentors are to be recruited online and are apparently not required to have any special training or skills other than a transgender identity,” Nathanael Blake told The Fix.

Typically, mentoring programs are unable to function without guardian consent, as most parents are continually aware of the location of their child. However, the virtual design of this program allows it to function secretly.

According to Blake, the program could encourage “damaging” procedures. “Encouraging children to transition is encouraging them to engage in self-harm … puberty blockers, wrong-sex hormones and surgical transition [which] are all physically damaging. Furthermore, transition does not address the underlying reasons why a child hates his or her body.” Blake told The Fix.

This is not the only taxpayer-funded research Edwards has on her plate. She also has a $771,707 grant from the NIH to study “sexual minority men” and why their peers sexually assault them. One reason why homosexual men might sexually assault fellow gay men, according to the grant, is because of “internalized homonegativity.”

Edwards pledged not to just focus on non-straight white men.

“To ensure racial, ethnic, and gender diversity in our sample for the purpose of addressing intersectionality we will oversample Black and/or Latinx SM men as well as trans and transmasculine men,” the summary stated.

MORE: DePaul ‘queer peers’ pairs older gay students with younger gay students

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About the Author
College Fix Contributor Emily Fowler is a student at The Master's University, where she studies music. She previously received an associate's degree in arts and sciences at Wabash Valley College. She also writes for Campus Reform, where she is a senior correspondent.