Senator Averil Power, Fianna Fáil Seanad spokesperson on Education & Skills, has welcomed new guidelines for school principals on tackling homophobic bullying and including lesbian, gay and bisexual students in school policies.
Senator Power commented, “Every young person should feel safe and supported at school. However the reality is that homophobic bullying is causing many lesbian, gay and bisexual students to feel threatened and undermining their ability to learn.
“The guidelines published today by the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network, the Department of Education and Skills and the NAPD will help school leaders to ensure that homophobia is addressed in the classroom and a culture of understanding and mutual respect fostered throughout the school.”
Recent research among Irish teenagers found that:
– 58% reported the existence of homophobic bullying in their schools;
– 34% reported homophobic comments by teachers and other staff members;
– 25% had been physically threatened and 40% had been verbally threatened by fellow students;
– 20% admitted to missing school because they felt threatened or were afraid of getting hurt at school;
– 60% said that there wasn’t a teacher or other adult in school that they could talk to; and
– Only 4% said there was open discussion of LGBT issues in anti-bullying seminars.
According to Senator Power, “Today’s publication stresses the importance of school leaders developing specific strategies to prevent homophobic bullying and to deal effectively with any incidents that occur. This requires an open and accountable culture in our schools, where students and teachers alike are fully aware of the casual behaviours that can lead to harassment or bullying. These guidelines define the differences between harmful behaviour, harassment and bullying and provide school principals with the tools to tackle these problems at every stage.
“A good education is about far more than just the imparting or acquisition of knowledge. It is about supporting the personal development of each individual student and encouraging our young people to be socially-aware, to treat others with respect and to make a positive contribution to Irish society. Disrespect, intolerance and bullying have no place in our schools. I hope that all schools will use these guidelines to ensure that homophobia is not tolerated in any form.
“Groups like GLEN are doing great work to make Irish society a more inclusive place to live and to grow up in. These guidelines are an important and valuable part of that work,” Senator Power concluded.