Teachers accused of ignoring homophobic bullying
Resource type: News
Irish Examiner |
GLEN is an Atlantic grantee.
The Joint Oireachtas Committee on Education heard that homophobic bullying needs to be tackled through the Department of Education instructing schools to include specific mention of it in their anti-bullying policies.
In a joint submission by GLEN ( Gay and Lesbian Equality Network) and the BeLonG To youth service, the committee heard there was a documented link between bullying suffered by gay and lesbian teenagers and self-harm and suicide.
Both groups said the department needed to re-establish the intradepartmental working group which has previously explored the implementation of policies on gay and lesbian issues across various departments.
They also said the department needs to update its 1993 Anti-Bullying Guidelines to Schools to address homophobic bullying, and for the department to specifically question schools on the issue.
Sandra Gowran, GLEN director of education policy, said while there was a small number of schools that have been pro-active in tackling homophobic bullying, up to 90% of schools did not make specific mention of the issue in their anti-bullying policies.
Dr Carol-Anne O’Brien of BeLonG To said this was probably not intentional, but “the fear is that it remains silent and invisible” to school management and staff.
Children in primary school are now using words such as “gay” and “bender” as terms of abuse, the committee heard.
The Teachers Union of Ireland (TUI), it emerged, is now following other unions in developing a policy on sexual orientation for teachers.
Ms Gowran said she was aware of cases where students had been called abusive names in front of teachers who pretended not to hear.
“Teachers fear that they will not have the backing of principals and boards of management [if they tackle the issue],” she said.
Data published earlier this year showed that half of gay, lesbian and transgender students had been called abusive names related to their sexual orientation by fellow students, while one-third heard homophobic comments made by staff. One-in-five admitted to missing school over concerns over their treatment, while there was a 27% rate of self-harm.
Ms Gowran said a circular to all schools from the department instructing management to instigate their own policies regarding the prevention of homophobic bullying would be “a huge advance”.