70% of young lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people do not feel safe at school, according to research. This week is Stand Up! LGBT Awareness Week which aims to tackle homophobic and transphobic bullying. It will take place in schools and youth services around the country. Mary Wilson spoke with Katie about her own personal experience of bullying and coming out in school. Katie suffered bullying in school even by those who she considered friends. Mary asked her about her teachers – if any gay teachers spoke openly about it. Katie said that when she was in school there was no such thing
‘Gay teachers…that’s an absolute foreign concept to me…that’s not something that would ever be talked about …teachers don’t feel safe to come out and be who they are themselves, that’s another part of why it’s so important to have acceptance in schools’
Katy believes that everyone within a school community – teachers, staff and students need to feel accepted. When asked what advice she’d give to someone who is gay and being bullied in school, Katie says ‘ access the support that is there, get to your local youth club and ask them what are they doing to support LGBT people’
Moninne Griffith is Executive Director of ‘Belong To’ youth services who say that LGBT students are among the more vulnerable pupils’ in schools.
‘In the last three weeks in our offices in Dublin we supported three young people through three attempted suicides and bullying is a major cause of those mental health problems that our LGBT people are facing’
Teachers are provided with training so that a safe environment can be created for students to openly discuss these issues. Moninne says that many teachers do the training in their own time and without cover showing their dedication, but believes that the training needs to be part of their professional development and qualifications. Only 35% of schools are taking part this year but they hope these numbers will increase as it’s hugely important that parents, students and youth services all need to be champions of the campaign to make a difference. Empathy and the understanding of the impact of homophobic bullying is critical as it can be carried into adulthood, in some cases leading to suicide later on in life. It’s about making schools safer and supportive for all students irrespective of their gender identity.
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