How can we address homophobic bullying in schools
Nine in ten secondary school teachers and more than two in five primary school teachers say pupils, regardless of their sexual orientation, experience homophobic bullying, name-calling or harassment. Those affected include boys who apply themselves academically, girls who 'behave like boys', pupils with gay parents, and often anyone simply seen as different.
The government has prioritised tackling homophobic bullying. The 2010 Schools White Paper highlighted the problem of homophobic bullying, stating explicitly that headteachers should take incidents of prejudice-based bullying such as homophobic bullying especially seriously.
Primary schools may want to introduce the issue of homophobic bullying by exploring the concept of families being diverse and not, as history may suggest the nuclear 'ideal' of a mum, dad and 2.4 children! Stonewall have produced a very useful resource pack for primary schools, entitled Different Families. The materials will enable you to talk about all types of different families, including those with lesbian, gay or bisexual family members, in an age appropriate way in primary schools.
Stonewall have also produced some easy to use resources for secondary schools, include feature length DVD FIT which is a perfect way to talk about sexual orientation and homophobic bullying. These resources and a range of others can be ordered from Stonewall.
Responding to homophobic language
Casual homophobic language is common in schools but, if it is not challenged, pupils may think that homophobic bullying is acceptable. It is therefore important to challenge homophobic language when it occurs:
- Ensure that pupils know that homophobic language will not be tolerated in schools. Make sure it is included in policies and procedures
- When an incident occurs, pupils should be informed that homophobic language is offensive, and will not be tolerated
- If a pupil continues to make homophobic remarks, explain in detail the effects that homophobic bullying has on people
- If a pupil makes persistent remarks, they should be removed from the classroom and teachers and staff should talk to him or her in more detail about why their comments are unacceptable
- If the problem persists, involve senior managers. The pupil should be made to understand the sanctions that will apply if they continue to use homophobic language
- Consider inviting the parents/carers to school to discuss the attitudes of the pupil
- Safe to Learn- Embedding anti-bullying work in schools (DCSF)
- Download (482KB)
Birmingham City Council resource
Written by Andrew Moffatt and produced by Birmingham LA as part of their Stonewall Education Champions work, this resource contains lesson plans for Reception to Y6 and recommends storybooks that focus on valuing diversity and recognising that families are different. The message conveyed is that there are 'no outsiders' in Birmingham classrooms. The 2012 version is available to download from the Birmingham City Council website.
What can I do as a parent?
Stonewall research shows 81% of people in Britain would now be comfortable if their child grew up to be lesbian, gay or bisexual. However, coming out remains a stressful experience for many gay young people and their parents. Although gay people today have plenty of sources of support when they choose to come out, few resources exist for parents of gay young people. Stonewall's guide will help parents support their children without worrying needlessly about the 'impact' of their sexual orientation.
Stonewall Head of Education Wes Streeting said: "Many parents worry about what being gay means for their relationship with their children and have all sorts of questions that they're sometimes afraid to ask for fear of saying the wrong thing. So You Think Your Child Is Gay? provides upbeat and straightforward advice to parents, which focuses on the most important thing of all – giving children love and support, whatever their sexual orientation."
A hate incident is any incident where you or someone else has been targeted because they or you are seen as being different. Anyone can be a victim of hate because of prejudice against their age, disability, gender identity, race, religion/belief or sexual orientation.
Challenging homophobic bullying in schools
If you attend a school in Doncaster, incidents may be reported to your CYPO ( Children and Young People's Police Officer) or speak to your designated Safeguarding Lead in school.
Incidents can also be reported on South Yorkshire Police Hate Crime.
The It Gets Better video below is about young people who have experienced homophobic bullying.