Scotland: Schools are failing to address homophobic bullying that leaves many suicidal, say campaigners

AGORA moderator's picture

LGBT rights activists have claimed that education institutions in Scotland are failing to address the critical issues for students, as MSPs prepare to re-evaluate an equality petition.

The Time for Inclusive Education campaign put forward its petition to a Holyrood committee late last year, calling for improvements to LGBT equality in all schools across the country.

Organisations including teachers' union the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS), the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (Cosla) and the Scottish Government responded to the MSPs' questions, but the campaigners have dismissed the letters, claiming not enough is being done.

Activists from across Scotland have said the EIS and Cosla failed to answer the calls for an overhaul of the LGBT curriculum, ahead of the committee reconsidering the petition tomorrow.

Discussing the petition in parliament, TIE co-founders Liam Stevenson and Jordan Daly highlighted recent figures from Stonewall Scotland that showed one in four LGBT students had attempted suicide as a result of homophobic bullying.

Responding to the petition, which called for the teaching of LGBT issues to be ingrained in the curriculum, the EIS said it was committed to LGBT equality in schools but was cautious about the implementation of new measures.

The letter from the teaching union said it was right that homophobic bullying and attitudes were challenged at “all levels”, adding that all students have the right to feel “supported and nurtured”.

However, the union questioned the idea of imposing LGBT issues on students, saying that “there may be sensitivities” around addressing certain parts of the curriculum due to “varying religious and moral beliefs”.

Writing to the Scottish Parliament ahead of the meeting, the TIE representatives praised the EIS for its work in the past, but said that much more needed to be done.

“Whilst it is positive to have such standards in place, we know that this is not being met across the board, and would expect that the EIS also do,” the TIE letter said.

“Teachers can often be as much a problem as other pupils – our publication Time for Inclusive Education consists of personal stories from pupils about LGBTI-phobic attitudes from teaching staff. Having a standard or code in place does not necessarily mean that it will be followed.”

Co-founder Stevenson, who is also involved in the RISE LGBT circle, said that since the group formed it had been contacted by several young children who were thinking of committing suicide.

The 37-year-old father-of-one said the lack of action from the teaching organisations was “shameful”, adding that he was currently in contact with a young boy who was contemplating attempting suicide for a second time.

“Is it really going to take another high-profile suicide to make the government sit up and take notice?” Stevenson asked.

“I have a young daughter who will be going to school this year and I don’t want her to have to face an environment where homophobia is tolerated. Teachers must be better trained and the curriculum must be updated and improved.”

The General Teaching Council for Scotland said: “Training is needed to help teachers feel comfortable in tackling subject matters, especially in relation to LGBT education.

“The priority has to be the health and wellbeing of the student within our classroom, not the opinions of those out with.”

The public petitions committee will discuss the future of the petition in parliament tomorrow morning.

SOURCE: The National, January 10th 2016: http://www.thenational.scot/news/schools-are-failing-to-address-homophob...