LGBT bullying in schools is rife

Web school classroom

Scotland's politicians need to take action to tackle the serious problem of LGBT bullying in schools

Paul Cardwell's photo

23rd February 2016 by Paul Cardwell 0 Comments

Scottish lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender young people are experiencing unacceptable levels of bullying in Scotland’s schools, LGBT groups have said.

Stonewall Scotland says thousands of young people feel unsafe and alone at school and it is demanding politiciansto vow to tackle the issues as a priority during their election campaigns.

The charity says all teachers need to be trained to deal with LGBT bullying and be able to offer age-appropriate sex and relationships information and advice.

Launching Stonewall Scotland's manifesto for the May election, Colin Macfarlane, the charity's director, said teaching about LGBT issues should be considered an essential part of preparing young people for life in modern Scotland

Macfarlane added: “It is not acceptable that every day, lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people have to face verbal or physical abuse in their communities simply because of who they are.

“Equality must sit at the heart of the political agenda, and we will call out any instances of homophobia, biphobia or transphobia that we see from any political party or candidate.

LGBT bullying in schools is rifeColin Macfarlane

It is not acceptable that every day, lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people have to face verbal or physical abuse in their communities simply because of who they are

“Political parties should be thinking long and hard about how they can help us fight for a Scotland and a world where every LGBT person can be accepted without exception.”

Sixteen years since the abolition of Section 28 in Scotland, Stonewall research has found that 75% of primary school staff and 44% of secondary school staff say that they either aren’t allowed to, or aren’t sure if they are allowed to, teach about LGBT issues in their school.

Jordan Daly, co-founder of Time for Inclusive Education (TIE), a grassroots campaign for inclusive LGBT education in Scotland, said a new strategy with teacher training at its centre is urgently required.

“I hope that with Stonewall putting this out some parliamentarians will sit up and pay attention.

“What LGBT youth all over the country need is a clear public commitment from the Scottish Government that they are going to tackle these issues with the next parliament.”

TIE says one of the biggest problems it comes up against is that schools say they cannot afford to send teachers on LGBT training courses. To combat this it has started a crowdfunding campaign to help pay the costs.

Daly added: “It shouldn’t be grassroots campaigners’ responsibility to raise funds, I think that lies with the Scottish Government. Money can, and should be, found for an issue like this.

“The situation allows schools where headteachers maybe don’t want training to be happening, whether that be for faith or other principles, to come back with a cop out that they can’t afford it.”

LGBT Youth Scotland told TFN its manifesto, when published, will call for a dedicated fund for initiatives to prevent and address LGBT bullying in schools, including training for teachers.

It also wants consistent LGBT inclusive education for all to be underpinned by law after one of its recent reports found that almost 70% of LGBT pupils had experienced homophobic or biphobic bullying in school.

Cara Spence, policy director, LGBT Youth Scotland, said: “It is crucial that training focusses on the whole ethos of the school environment to ensure education is inclusive and safe for all LGBT young people.

"Some schools have made excellent progress, and where good practice exists, we should be supporting schools to help others on their journey to LGBT equality in education.”

A spokesperson for the General Teaching Council (GTC) Scotland, welcomed the idea of further training for teachers saying it supports any long-term strategy which tackles bullying or inequality.

The spokesperson added: “GTC Scotland recognises that some teachers can find it difficult to talk to students about homophobic bullying and same sex relationships and we welcome the work of organisations like Stonewall that train and support teachers in what are often considered to be 'challenging areas'.

"GTC Scotland has been working with a range of partner organisations to help raise the profile of LGBT issues and is having ongoing discussions with LGBT Youth to explore the issues and challenges of dealing with homophobic attitudes within education, and how these can be actively addressed.”

Stonewall Scotland’s manifesto also includes calls for fairer treatment for LGBT people in public services like the NHS, a review of laws affecting trans people and better protection of LGBT rights here and abroad.

Macfarlane added: “A lot has been achieved during this parliament; however the biggest risk now is that huge achievements in legal equality may result in complacency. 

"Legal equality is not enough by itself; we need to encourage candidates to help change hearts and minds in their communities to achieve social equality.”