Initiative on Homophobic Bullying in Schools Launched

Síle de Valera TD, Minister of State at the Department of Education and Science today launched an initiative on homophobic bullying in schools. The initiative has been developed by the Equality Authority and BeLonG To, a youth project for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender young people.

Under the initiative posters are to be distributed to all post primary schools. The posters set out a commitment from the school that ”Homophobic bullying is not acceptable in our school”. Booklets will also be distributed providing information to school principals on the issue of homophobic bullying, on the Equal Status Acts and on actions that could be taken by schools to address homophobic bullying. A flyer to publicise the initiative will be distributed nationwide in venues frequented by young people.

Michael Barron of BeLonG To, speaking at the launch highlighted ”the initiative was started by gay and lesbian young people in response to their experiences of bullying in school. Some of our own members have been bullied so badly that they have been forced to drop out of school early. This initiative is important because it is about young people supporting other young people to ensure that this doesn’t happen in the future”.

”It is our experience that homophobic bullying is at a dangerously high level in Irish schools and cannot be ignored anymore. Now is the time to act to ensure that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender young people receive a safe and equal education. The fact that An Garda Siochana, the Association of Secondary Teachers in Ireland, the Teachers Union of Ireland, the National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals, the Union of Secondary School Students, the National Parents Council – Post Primary, Parents Support and Pobal are endorsing this campaign, demonstrates that there is a real will to act now”, adds Mr. Barron.

Recent research by a team at the School of Education in Dublin City University has highlighted the extensive nature of homophobic bullying in post primary schools. 79% of teachers who responded to the research questionnaire were aware of instances of homophobic bullying in their school – 30% of these teachers had encountered this type of bullying on more than ten occasions. 90% of the teachers who responded reported that their schools anti-bullying policy did not include any reference to gay and lesbian issues.

Niall Crowley of the Equality Authority, speaking at the launch emphasised that ”a student who has been subject to homophobic bullying may be able to take a case under the Equal Status Acts. The Acts prohibit harassment on a number of grounds, including the sexual orientation ground and requires schools to take reasonable practicable steps to ensure students are not subject to such harassment. Homophobic bullying is encompassed by the prohibition of harassment in the Equal Status Acts. Schools need to address their responsibilities under the Equal Status Acts by ensuring that codes of behaviour and anti-bullying policies are explicit in naming the issue of homophobic bullying and in identifying the practices and procedures in place to prevent this homophobic bullying and to deal with any such incidents that occur. Schools should ensure that their admission policies are welcoming to a diversity of students, including gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students”.

The initiative encourages schools to create a safe and inclusive learning environment for all students including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students. This should include:

  • Responding to the schools responsibilities under the Equal Status Acts by addressing gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender issues in school’s bullying policies and codes of behaviour, in school development plans and admission policies and in school equality policies;
  • Promoting equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students by addressing gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender issues in the RSE and CSPE courses, by including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students in the student council, by training staff on equality and diversity issues and by developing the role of guidance counsellors in providing appropriate supports to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students.

ENDS

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