TV show encourages gay bullying, say teachers

PinkNews Staff Writer April 12, 2007
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A leading teaching union has issued a warning about the influence of prime-time TV drama Life On Mars on young people.

The series, which is set in the 1970s, contains sexist and homophobic language and attitudes.

It finished its second series on Tuesday night with nearly 8m people tuning in to watch the final episode.

Hard-nosed detective Gene Hunt uses racist, sexist and homophobic language regularly.

This week Life On Mars was nominated for two TV Bafta awards.

Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT, has spoken out against the show, saying its rose-tinted portrayal of police culture over thirty years ago ignored the reality of life for gay people and women in the workplace.

“If you’ve got abusive terms like “fairy boy” that is particularly worrying in a context where our evidence is showing that one of the factors which causes young people to consider suicide is the fact that in schools they are subject to homophobic bullying,” she said.

The NASUWT is holding their annual conference in Belfast.

Ms Keates said that while she did not want the programme taken off-air, she did want young people to know that the behaviour of characters was unacceptable.

It was up to teachers and parents to remind young people that the “good old days” were not that good for minorities and women.

“Where that becomes a dangerous issue is where there is not a context that young people are getting a sense that that is absolutely wrong,” she said, according to the Sutton Observer.

“There is still a prevalence of homophobic bullying, bullying people on the basis of their body image, and that’s not taken as seriously as if you have racist bullying where everybody now, by and large, responds very severely.”

All schools are required by law to have an anti-bullying policy, but many do not collate figures on how much bullying goes on.

The House of Commons education committee last month expressed concern that this may be to protect the school’s reputation.

The committee heard evidence from charity Anti-Bullying Alliance.

Between 30-50% of young people in secondary schools attracted to people of the same sex will have directly experienced homophobic bullying compared to the 10-20% of young people who have experienced general bullying.

The committee also took evidence from Stonewall and Education Action Challenging Homophobia about the experiences of gay children and the children of gay parents.

“They told us that homophobic bullying in schools is not reported, as there is no duty on schools to record the data,” said Lib Dem MP Stephen Williams, a member of the committee.

“Our report recommends that all types of identity-related bullying, whether it’s homophobic or to do with special needs or racism, should be recorded by schools.

“They need to record and have policies in place on all the different types of bulling.

“They have to specifically address each different reason why a child could be bullied, often about something they cannot do something about.”

The Department for Education and Skills is expected to respond to the committee’s recommendations later this year.

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