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IS THIS TRUE IN YOUR SCHOOL?

1) The Terrence Higgins' Trust and Stonewall survey of more than 300 schools in England and Wales found in 1996:

  • 82% were aware of verbal homophobic bullying in their school;
  • 99% had an anti bullying policy in school;
  • However only 6% recognised homophobic bullying within their policy.

Did you know how dangerous schools are for our young people?

2) Profiles of Prejudice 2003 Stonewall and Mori Po
Who is most likely to experience prejudice and discrimination in England? young people views 15-24

  • Gay and lesbian people 55%
  • People from ethnic minorities 47%
  • Refugees/asylum 44%
  • People who overweight or obese 32%
  • physically disabled 22%
  • Travellers/gypsies 20%

3) The Terrence Higgins' Trust and Stonewall survey of more than 300 schools in England and Wales found in 1996:

  • 82% were aware of verbal homophobic bullying in their school;
  • 99% had an anti bullying policy in school;
  • However only 6% recognised homophobic bullying within their policy.

4) Did you know how dangerous schools are for our young people? In a 1996 Stonewall surveyed 4000 lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals about their experiences of homophobic violence, harassment and verbal abuse. Of respondents aged under 18

  • 48% of respondents aged under 18 had experienced violence
  • 61% had been harassed
  • 90% had been called names because of their sexuality
  • 50% of violent attacks involved fellow students
  • 40% took place at school
  • 24% of all respondents aged under 18 had been attacked by fellow students
  • 79% had been had called names by fellow students

5) GALOP's survey of 1998 of London Youth based on 202 surveys 3 found:

  • 33% suffered verbal abuse in school;
  • 35% suffered physical abuse in school;
  • 2% were harassed in college;
  • 3% suffered verbal abuse in college;
  • 7% suffered sexual abuse in school;
  • 34% were harassed at school.

There is no doubt that homophobic bullying is a major component of anti social behaviour in schools today. The use of sexist and homophobic terms still forms a large part of playground banter or 'cussing' as it is known in South London Schools. For all children, the blanking or ignoring of such language denies equal opportunities to everyone and such collusion with the bullying sends a clear message that anyone can be picked on at any time. Bullying is often the root cause for many problems in later life e.g. alcoholism, drug abuse, mental and physical health problems. If we do not tackle this issue now we are storing up considerable problems for individuals as well as society in general.


What affect does this have on our young people?
6) The Lesbian and Gay Teenage project conducted a piece of research, which found that one in five of lesbian and gay teenagers had attempted suicide.

7) In 1992 a survey by the Lesbian Youth Support and information Service concluded that 70% of young lesbians questioned had attempted suicide.

8) It follows that such a severe response is only the tip of the iceberg, that it is likely that other coping mechanisms will be adopted to block the effects of the pain such as:-

  • alcohol and drug misuse;
  • Truancy will occur as students seek to escape from the persecution;
  • Students will not be able to work effectively in such an environment so academic standards will drop;
  • Due to low self-esteem and anxiety some young people develop eating disorders, and suffer from other mental and physical problems
  • Some parents are very hostile to young lesbian and gay children and some are forced to leave home moving into dangerous accommodation and lifestyles and or becoming homeless.

Heard these excuses ? Here are the answers.

Frequently teachers and other workers in education attempt to ignore the problem hoping it will go away or see the situation as one they cannot or will not deal with.

Some schools claim that parents may object to them doing this work
A Health Education Authority (1994) study of 1,462 parents found that 94% thought schools should play a role in teaching pupils about sexuality, 56% about sexual orientation and 80% about HIV.
Profiles of Prejudice 2003
Stonewall and Mori Poll
How comfortable or uncomfortable would you feel if your teacher Profiles of Prejudice 2003
Stonewall and Mori Poll, or the teacher of a close relative, were gay or lesbian (by family status)

No children in the household:

  • 22% not comfortable
  • 21% no opinion
  • 57% comfortable

Children in the household

  • 17% not comfortable
  • 10% no opinion
  • 73% comfortable

Paragraphs 4.29 and 4.30 of the DfEE Circular on Social Inclusion: Pupil Support (10/99) advise that:
"The emotional and mental distress caused by bullying, in whatever form- be it racial, or as a result of a child's appearance, behaviour, or special educational needs, or related to sexual orientation, can prejudice school achievement, lead to lateness or truancy, and in extreme cases end with suicide. A third of girls and a quarter of boys are at sometime afraid of going to school because of bullying. Bullying is usually part of a pattern of behaviour rather than an isolated incident. Pupils should be encouraged to report any bullying to staff or to older pupils they can trust. Low report rates should not themselves be taken as proof that bullying is not occurring.
" Head teachers have a legal duty to take measures to prevent all forms of bullying among pupils."
"On the subject of homophobic bullying, let me assure you that Ministers do not underestimate the effect that bullying can have both on the emotional well-being and educational achievement of pupils. They acknowledge that sexual orientation can be a significant impetus for bullying, harassment and discrimination. Ministers are concerned about all forms of bullying and attach a high priority to helping prevent and combat it. It is a pernicious problem, which puts the emotional well being and educational achievement of pupils at risk. All schools should treat the issue of bullying seriously and take steps to combat it promptly and firmly whenever and wherever it occurs."

Don't suffer in Silence DfES booklet
Strategies for reducing homophobic bullying include:
including it in the school's anti-bullying policy - so pupils know discrimination is wrong and the school will act
covering it in INSET days on bullying in general
guaranteeing confidentiality and appropriate advice to lesbian and gay pupils
challenging homophobic language
exploring issues of diversity and difference - discussing what schools and society can do to end discrimination
exploring pupils' understanding of their use of homophobic language - they may not understand the impact

SO WHAT CAN WE DO?
Schools need to:

  • Have clear anti bullying policies that include homophobic bullying. *(1)
  • Give training to all staff to enable them to have the skills, confidence and techniques to recognise homophobic bullying and tackle it effectively. (2)
  • Include lesbian, gay and bisexual issues right across the curriculum in English, history etc. (3&5)
  • Insure the Equal Opportunity Policy includes lesbian, gay and bisexual people. (4)
  • Insure all your policies and practices meet the needs of your lesbian, gay and bisexual students and staff and parents. (4, 5, 6, 7, 8)
  • Welcome and Support your lesbian, gay and bisexual staff. (3, 4, 5,6, 7 ,8, 9, 10, 12 ,11, 12, 14, 16)
  • Insure your covert culture is welcoming to all lesbian, gay and bisexual people. (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10, 11, 12, 14, 15, 16)
  • Insure that lesbian, gay and bisexual parents and their children are welcomed and supported. (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10, 11, 12, 15, 19)

Staff Need:

  • Full training in all these issues:
  • how to recognise homophobia,
  • how to deal effectively with it,
  • how to integrate lesbians, gay and bisexual people throughout the
  • overt and covert curriculum; (1, 2, 5, 14, 19)*
  • Lesbian, gay & bisexual support groups; (7)
  • Knowledge that their authority and school and or work place will fully support them if they 'come out'. (7, 8 16)

Young People Need:

  • A safe, comfortable and supportive environment; (1 - 20)
  • Clear guidelines on acceptable behaviour; (1, 13, 14)
  • Someone to listen & take their concerns seriously; (15)
  • Access to support groups outside school; (10,15)
  • Appropriate models of lesbian, gay and bisexual people, past and present; (3)
  • Access to information leaflets and posters about lesbian, gay and bisexual issues; (3, 5,10, 12, 19)

*Numbers in ( ) refer to 'How Do We Do This?'

HOW DO WE DO THIS?
1)   Define and include ‘homophobic/transphobic bullying’ in the anti- bullying policy. 

2)   Provide training on recognising and dealing effectively with homophobic/ transphobic abuse and bullying to be made available to all staff.  (Note that in Ian Rivers’ research, he found that much of the abuse and bullying took place in situations where teachers are not usually present.)

3)   Provide positive images of lesbian, gay bisexual and trans people along-side those of other individuals and community groups, acknowledging the sexuality of famous and successful lesbians, gay bisexual and trans people both past and present.  The work needs to be placed in a wider context where LGBT people are seen as citizens and participants in a wide range of activities both past and present. This should happen in the same way as ensuring work presented to pupils includes positive images of black, minority ethnic people, women and people with disabilities, etc.

4)   Revisit all policies and practices, especially the equal opportunity policy, to see if LGBT people are included and catered for.  (See guideline on language.)

5)   Develop the curriculum to include LGBT experience, both in celebration and in looking at issues of equality and oppression.  Examples are:

  • inclusions of oppression of gays and lesbians when looking at the Holocaust in history;
  • inclusion of a range of sexualities and gender identity in sex education;
  • exploring issue based drama and utilising many novels and poems dealing with the subject in English.  (See bibliography.)

6)   Regularly review the covert culture, i.e., language and images used in all school communications be they written or spoken, choice of uniform, names of forms, houses etc. to reflect an anti-heterosexist culture.

7)  Schools and Local Authorities enable the setting up of interest groups for LGBT people so they can support each other and make recommendations. 

8)  Local Authorities to review their policies and practices so that they support and enable staff to ‘come out’ if they so wish.

9)  Develop models of good practice and support and apply them to particular situations, be they classroom, corridor, canteen, youth club, career guidance, counselling room, hospital etc.

10) Regularly update advertising such as posters for appropriate local LGBT clubs and events.  Continuously display the LGBT switchboards numbers, both local and national.

11) Fast and effective removal of offensive graffiti.

12) School assemblies need to reflect lesbian, gay men bisexual and trans people’s anniversaries like Stonewall and now tragically the Soho Bombing as well as birthdays of famous lesbians, gay men, bisexual and trans people.

13) Behaviour guidelines and structures regularly debated and agreed and owned by students, in order to help students and staff to implement them, i.e., election of student safety officers.

14) The encouragement of a culture that engenders effective learning and the exploration of what students and staff need from each other to learn.

15) A designated person who young people know they can talk to about these issues in confidence.  (This is in addition to their form/year tutor, not in instead of.)

16) Design school social events and invitations so that they are welcoming to all partners of staff and parents. 

17) Support young LGBT people who wish to come out, and help them link up with other young lesbians and gay men and trans people.

18) Find LGBT affirmative therapists and counsellors for those young people who would like help coming to terms with their sexuality and gender identity

19) Develop the sex education curriculum so that it does not only cover reproduction and disease.  Sex needs to be taught in a way that young people can relate to.  It is vital that a range of sexual orientations is discussed in a positive manner as well as gender identity. (See bibliography.)

20) Every class has its own seating plan that changes regularly so everyone knows where they sit, so cliques are not enabled and everyone gets a chance to sit with everyone.

21) In everything you say, do or write,

 Know that everyone is unique and that we can be lesbian,
gay, bisexual or heterosexual!

FOOTNOTES
1. Douglas, Nicola et. al., 1997, Playing it Safe: Responses of Secondary Schools Teachers to Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Pupils, Bullying, HIV and AIDS Education and Section 28, London: University of London, Institute of Education.
2. Queerbashing: A national survey of hate crimes against lesbians and gay men. Stonewall1996,
3. GALOP telling it like it is : Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Youth Speak Out on Homophobic Violence, 1998.
4. Guidance: Social Inclusion: Pupil Support, DfEE Circular 10/99
5. Letter from Crick, Joanne, DfEE, Personal, Social and Health Education Team, 3rd December, 1998.
6. Trenchard, Lorraine & Warren, Hugh, 1984, "Something to Tell You", The Experiences and Needs of Young Lesbians and Young Gay Men in London: London Gay Teenage Group.
7. Lesbian Information Service Annual Report of 1990-91, 1992.
8. Op. cit., Douglas, Nicola, et. al.
9. Rivers, Ian, Young, Gay and Bullied, Young People Now, January, 1996