Bullying

Bullying in schools is a major problem. Stonewall's 2012 School Report found that 55% of young lesbian, gay and bisexual people have experienced bullying in school.

Research at GALYIC found that 92% of the fifty members interviewed had experienced bullying in schools. This included bullying because the victim was disabled, minority ethnic, or simply because they 'looked different.' However, 76% of members had experienced homophobic bullying: bullying based on the belief that the victim is known or suspected to be gay. Most schools are affected.

Homophobic bullying ranges from verbal abuse, threats/intimidation, harassment, physical, damage to property, blackmail, theft, arson to sexual assault and sometimes even rape.

Here are some young people from Australia talking about homophobic bullying, how it made them feel and what they did about it: Monash University Students.

Many young people try and deal with bullying on their own and are often too scared to talk to their parents about it.

You don't have to put up with this. There are people in school you can go to for help, for example, the teacher who is responsible for safe-guarding; Connexions personal advisers; targeted youth support workers; and school nurses.

But if you don't feel able to ask these for support and would prefer to talk to a young person who has been through something similar, you can speak to someone on BeatBullying.

A pupil's guide to surviving anti-gay harassment and physical or sexual assault tells you what simple steps you can take to make yourself safe. There are also guides for your family, teachers and head teachers.

Bullying can have a serious effect on your emotional health, especially when you are trying to come to terms with being LGBT and even more so if you are isolated and without support. The section on Mental Health tells you more about this and gives suggestions as to how you can cope.

Sometimes when you are experiencing homophobic bullying, it makes you more confused about your sexual orientation. If you haven't already done so, have a look at our Coming Out section, and in particular Coming Out to Yourself.

It can help to talk to a counsellor but it is important you see one who is positive about being gay. Contact your nearest LGBT youth group or helpline to find a counsellor; failing that your local sexual health clinic may provide counselling.

Government Initiatives

In 2011 schools began to record homophobic bullying alongside racist and religious bullying, this should have resulted in schools taking the issue more seriously.

In April 2011 the Public Sector Equality Duty came into force. Because of this law, schools, along with other public services, are meant to proactively promote equality and tackle homophobia.

An education white paper published in 2011 highlighted the need for schools to tackle homophobic bullying. The white paper states that the government will "Strengthen head teachers' authority to maintain discipline beyond the school gates, improve exclusion processes and empower head teachers to take a strong stand against bullying, especially racist, homophobic and other prejudice-based bullying."

To ensure schools tackle bullying, government says that they will "Focus Ofsted inspections more strongly on behaviour and safety, including bullying, as one of four key areas of inspection."

The white paper continues, "If parents have concerns about behaviour, and feel that the school has not dealt with them properly, they can ask Ofsted to carry out an inspection. In deciding how to proceed, Ofsted will consider whether evidence suggests that standards of behaviour have dropped since the last inspection and whether they give cause for concern. Ofsted may choose to contact the school for more information before deciding whether it needs to inspect the school, or it may carry out an inspection immediately if the problems are serious."

In March 2011 the Commission for Equality and Human Rights published a report, Prevention and response to identity-based bullying among local authorities in England, Scotland and Wales.

The report states, "...greater efforts need to be made to challenge overriding prejudice, and to eliminate homophobic and disablist attitudes at all levels of the school and wider community."

The report highlights that LGBT young people may have, "particular needs or issues which should be considered by those tasked with preventing or responding to identity-based bullying." These include, for example, the fear of being outed, fear of teachers being homophobic, or that they will not be taken seriously.

The report adds, "It may also be necessary to provide targeted and specialised support or avenues of support for those who do report LGB bullying." Here are relevant extracts from the report and here is a link to the complete report.

Here is a link to Ofsted's No place for bullying 2012, which includes a series of reports, leaflets and case studies. Ofsted recommends that schools:
  • Acknowledge problem,
  • Secure commitment from all senior leaders,
  • Training for all staff,
  • Update policies and procedures,
  • Tackle homophobic and transphobic language strongly,
  • Develop curriculum to meet needs of LGBT learners,
  • Create safe environment.

Church of England Initiative

In May 2014 Archbishop Justin Welby launched the briefing report "Valuing All God's Children, Guidance for Church of England Schools on Challenging Homophobic Bullying." This is aimed at all CoE schools.

Support for Schools

Click here to access a free, on-line training programme, Supporting LGBT Young People in School.

Here is a simple, ten point, plan to help schools tackle homophobia.

And here is a leaflet,10 Ways to Support LGBT Young People in Education developed jointly by GALYIC and Calderdale Council which was distributed to teachers throughout Calderdale in response to the Equality Act (2010) and in preparation for the Public Sector Equality Duty.

Ayden's Law

Fourteen-year-old Ayden Keenan-Olse killed himself in 2013 as a result of homophobic and racist bullying experienced at The Philip Morant School and College, Colchester.

Ayden's mother Shy Keenan, and other parents of children who have killed themselves as a result of bullying, is calling on the government to introduce Ayden's Law. Ayden's mother, points out that hate crimes are crimes outside of school but not inside school. She is asking for a new law which would:

  • make bullying and intimidation a criminal offence;

  • increase bullying prevention outside school grounds; and

  • introduce a statutory requirement for government to publish an annual anti-bullying strategy.

Here is a link to a very moving interview with Shy Keenan from Channel Four, Grieving mother calls for new anti-bullying laws, and another one to Ayden's Law Beatbullying page.

American Resources

In the USA there have been substantial efforts to eliminate bullying, from passing laws to YouTube campaigns. Bullying LGBT young people is highlighted in these initiatives, even more so recently after a series of young gay men killing themselves as a result of bullying.

Here is a link to research from the USA which has identified homophobic abuse and lack of support as two key elements in LGBT young people attempting suicide and self-harm.

Stopbullying.gov provides links to an incredible amount of resources. Here is a link to the page for educators, and here is a link to lesson plans which address LGBT issues in school.

Here is a link to an extract from the documentary, Bullied: A Student, A School and a Case That Made History.

Here
is a link to Teaching Tolerance.