High-profile campaigns are failing to make a significant impact in preventing homophobic bullying, according to the Queer Youth Network.
Their national survey of young people revealed 84% think that anti-gay bullying is getting worse, and 79% said that having a formal school policy to deal with homophobic bullies makes no difference.
The network conduct an annual survey of LGBT young people.
David Henry of the Queer Youth Network commented:
“Despite all our best efforts there is only so much we can do without a big change in thinking.”
He accused the British school system of being intrinsically flawed and called for the establishment of autonomous, youth-led ‘Social Centres’ within schools to improve the quality of life and education for all pupils.
Gay activist Peter Tatchell told National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers LGBT Consultation Conference in Birmingham on Saturday that:
“Section 28 may have been repealed, but many schools are still failing to challenge homophobic bullying.
“This bullying affects both gay pupils and gay staff. Lesbian and gay teachers are being subjected to taunts, ridicule and abuse by homophobic pupils. They do not always get support and back-up from other members of staff.
“Unlike racism, homophobia is often tolerated in the classroom and playground. “Gay” has become a commonplace taunt. Most schools don’t bother to discipline offenders.”
A snap survey conducted by the National Union of Teachers reported last week that the vast majority of their members hear the word gay used pejoratively on a regular basis.
Many felt that sexist and homophobic language was institutionally tolerated.
The study also revealed the high levels of sexist language being used in schools and that many female teachers are sexually harassed by pupils.
The Queer Youth Network survey found that 96% of young people concluded that homophobic bullying was hardly ever an issue on its own, but it is combined with other types of victimisation, such as someone’s appearance.
The network attacked the tradition of the school hierarchy, large class sizes and lack of attention from teaching staff as reasons why a great deal of bullying goes unchecked.
“School as it exists today is robbing young people of their right to develop their personalities, strengths and beliefs.
“Which means their understanding of the world is late developing, their respect for their environment, other people of different creeds, classes, sexual orientations, races and cultures is suffering,” said Mr Henry.
“Bullying is getting worse, the environment is suffering, and anti-social behaviour and violent crime is allowed to flourish as a product of many young people’s only outlet. We must radically overhaul the concept of ‘school’.”
Gay rapper QBoy will present a Channel 4 programme for schools later this month where he talks to kids who have come out while still at school.
Coming Out To Class is one of a series of programmes in the channel’s Gay Week which starts on February 26th.