Up until now, there was very little guidance (if any) for teachers and education officials when it came to how to treat and protect gay and lesbian school-goers. According to the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network (GLEN), who worked in concert with the department in drafting it.
This the first comprehensive guidance for schools on sexual orientation that has the backing of all the education partners – the school management bodies, national parents councils, trade unions and principals’ professional bodies. The breakthrough importance of the involvement of all these stakeholders at a national level is an important recognition of the difficulties faced by young gay people in schools and of the stakeholders determination to address those difficulties.
It is hoped that this will help school Principals to provide a safe and supportive environment for lesbian, gay and bisexual students by implementing measures such as promoting positive visibility of LGB students and developing zero-tolerance policies on homophobic bullying.
The Department will be sending the Guidance out to all schools this week.
At the launch, Minister Haughey was clear that homophobic bullying is unacceptable, and called for thorough implementation of the guidelines to ensure that lesbian and gay students are safe and supported in schools and achieve their full educational and personal potential.
Homophobic bullying is, unfortunately, a reality in society generally and in schools. Our schools have always played an important role in transmitting our values as a society to all students. These values include respect for diversity and acceptance and celebration of difference. Thus the necessity for schools to address and raise awareness of homophobic bullying is clear.[It] is unacceptable.
Most lesbian, gay and bisexual young people begin to discover their sexual orientation while at second level. This coincides with a challenging period of exploration of personal and group identity for all young people. Teenagers experiencing homophobic bullying may sometimes find it difficult to confide in a family member. It is therefore, particularly important that we equip our Principals and School Leaders to be able to deal with the many challenges surrounding this issue.
Research published earlier this year found that over 50% of the participants reported having experienced homophobic bullying whilst at school and 60% said that there was no teacher or other adult in school that they could talk to.
The Minister went on to say that this must change. It is hoped that this publication will educate the educators and give them the tools to take the first steps towards ridding our schools of homophobia and homophobic abuse.
For more information and to read the report, log on to www.glen.ie