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TUC delegates back Society’s motion to tackle homophobic bullying in schools

13 September, 2012
SoR Vice President Karen Smith moving the motion at TUC Congress

A motion by the Society of Radiographers, which called for the TUC to encourage local authorities to tackle the issue of homophobic bullying in schools, received unanimous support at this year’s Trades Union Congress (9-12 September 2012).

The motion highlighted the Stonewall programme to eradicate the bullying of gays, lesbians and transgender students. Stonewall launched ‘The School Report’ earlier this year and claimed that research showed that more than half of lesbian, gay and bisexual pupils are bullied by other students.

The use of homophobic language is endemic. Almost all (99%) of gay young people hear the phrases ‘that’s so gay’ or ‘you’re so gay’ in school and 96% of gay pupils hear homophobic language such as ‘poof’ or ‘lezza’.

Three in five gay pupils who experience homophobic bullying say that teachers who witness it do not intervene. Only half of gay pupils report that their schools say homophobic bullying is wrong, even fewer condemn it in faith schools (37%)

Stonewall claims that homophobic bullying has a profoundly damaging impact on young people’s school experience. One in three (32%) of gay pupils experiencing bullying say that they change their future educational plans because of it and three in five say it impacts on their school work.

“Gay people who are bullied are at a higher risk of suicide, self-harm and depression,” said Karen Smith, who proposed the motion on behalf of the Society of Radiographers.

“Four out of 10 gay people have attempted or thought about taking their own life because of bullying and the same number say that they deliberately self-harm because of bullying.”

She continued: “Schools have a legal requirement to prevent and respond to homophobic bullying, and some have programmes and strategies to increase awareness and tackle this behaviour. We also know that homophobic bullying incidents dramatically decrease in those schools. However, there is still a long way to go with engaging other schools to introduce policies and procedures to deal with the problem.

Encouragingly, the study shows that change is not difficult and gay pupils are less likely to be bullied if the school explicitly states that homophobic bullying is not tolerated.

Stonewall is a charity which raises awareness of issues affecting the lesbian, gay and bisexual communities. Its Education For All programme provides support and guidance to local authorities.

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