Gay groups welcome bullying report
Gay equality organisation Stonewall has welcomed a report by a committee of MPs on bullying in schools.
Their findings highlight the prevalence of homophobic bullying and the lack of specific policies to protect LGBT pupils.
MPs also highlighted the way in which children who are the victims of bullying are sometimes encouraged to stay at home or even leave the school rather than be protected by teachers and other staff.
Stonewall has been campaigning on homophobic bullying for several years through their Education for All campaign.
A spokesman said the report showed the seriousness with which the problem in schools is being taken.
“We welcome the call that all schools, including faith schools, should tackle homophobic bullying. I look forward to the government taking action.”
The report singled out Roman Catholic-run schools for criticism for failing to acknowledge that there is a need to focus on homophobic harassment.
The Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association commented:
“For the sake of these children and for the community at large which should be protected from the promotion of bigotry in schools, the Catholic Church should be stripped of its educational establishments.
“Let us not forget that these schools are paid for entirely by the taxpayer – in effect, we are all funding the unchecked bullying of gay children.”
Giving evidence to the committee last December, the Archbishop of Birmingham, Vincent Nichols, said that no specific issues should be singled out with regards to bullying policy.
The MPs recommend the opposite, that all schools should devise different policies towards racial, sexual, virtual and all other forms of harassment.
Alan Wardle, director of parliamentary and public affairs for Stonewall, said:
“We know some Catholic schools are doing the right thing. But for the Archbishop to deny that homophobic bullying exists damages the life chances of young people.
“Unless it is acknowledged and addressed it gets swept under the carpet. This report is right to call on Catholic schools to focus on homophobic bullying to make sure it is not ignored.”
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Stonewall launched a DVD last year, entitled Spell It Out, for distribution to teachers in all London’s secondary schools.
In July 2006 Stonewall held a conference, “Tackling Homophobia in our Schools,” and were joined by London Mayor Ken Livingstone for the launch of the free DVD.
Mr Wardle said that Stonewall has been commissioned by the Department for Education and Skills to write guidance for schools on homophobic bullying.
“We are deepening that engagement with local authorities and schools across the country,” he said.
“We are much involved in engaging, as we have been doing with employers, to produce best practice and talk to people about how to combat homophobia.
“It is a long-term campaign but we are heading down the right road and this wake-up call to schools from MPs certainly helps.”