bullying Issue 22 路 summer 2013
jordan longÂ â€˘ Introduction
ullying. The topic has come to the forefront of the LGBTQ youth movement. Across the world, communities are no longer staying silent when the powerful take advantage of the less powerful. Bullying is no longer accepted as merely 'part of growing up,' but rather it is recognised as a destructive force in the lives of many young people.
n 2013, IGLYO is focusing our work on bullying. In June, we held the conference Stop H8: Tackling Homophobic and Transphobic Bullying in Europe. With the results from the conference, our Working Group on Education is developing Minimum Standards to Combat Homophobic and Transphobic Bullying in Europe. And IGLYO has commissioned a piece of research to investigate the link between bullying and access to the labor market.
nd now, we're happy to present accounts of what is happening on the ground with IGLYO On Bullying. First, a member of IGLYO's Education Working Group situates bullying within a human rights framework. We then move to Cyprus, where a teacher training program is changing schools. Two perspectives come from the Netherlands: the organisational approach of COC Netherlands, and an interview with a leader of a Gay Straight Alliance in Utrecht. Finally, we hear about a successful programme in Australia before a summary of some of the impacts of bullying, and why we need to work to stop it.
ere at IGLYO, with our member organisations, our partners, and decision makers, we are working to stop bullying. We hope you enjoy these articles from our members and friends. We look forward to continuing the fight to tackle bullying across the world! In solidarity,
Jordan Long IGLYO Programmes & Policy Officer and the IGLYO Board
IGLYO on Bullying
Why LGBTQ-phobic Bullying is a Violation of the Fundamental Human Right to Education
Gian Piero Carlo Milani
Teachers as a shield against homophobic bullying in education
Combatting Homophobia in Education: The COC's Inside-Out Approach
Engaging Teachers and Administrators to Tackle Bullying
Homophobic Bullying in Educational Institutions
Jouke van Buuren The GSA at UniC: An Interview with a GSA Organizer
LGBTQ-phobic bullying is a violation of the fundamental human right to education George–Konstantinos Charonis Education is recognised as a fundamental human right in various documents pertaining to international law (UN 1948, Council of Europe 1952). This article aims to compare certain such documents with research on the experiences of LGBTQ young people in schools, in order to investigate the extent to which the right to education is protected and guaranteed for all individuals, regardless of sexual orientation or gender
identity. The term ‘homophobic bullying’ is used throughout this article and refers to all LGBTQ-phobic bullying.
This article will focus on certain United Nations documents, for three key reasons. Firstly, they are globally applicable; second, they are in some cases legally binding for nations, i.e. the rights listed must be secured by nations. Finally, due to length restrictions a more de-
IGLYO on Bullying tailed analysis is not feasible.Other international organisations, agreements and documents should be kept in mind, as they are also relevant. These include: • The Council of Europe and the European Convention on Human Rights (Council of
Europe 1952) as well as the recent recommendation from the Committee of Ministers to member states on measures to combat discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity (ibid 2010) • The Yogyakarta Principles
United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UN 1948)
“Everyone has the right to education” (Article 26)
International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (UN 1966)
“…education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and the sense of its dignity, and shall strengthen the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms… education shall enable all persons to participate effectively in a free society, promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations and all racial, ethnic or religious groups, and further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.” (Article 13)
Convention on the Rights of the Child (UN 1989)
“Parties shall respect and ensure the rights set forth in the present Convention to each child within their jurisdiction without discrimination of any kind, irrespective of the child’s or his or her parent’s or legal guardian’s race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national, ethnic or social origin, property, disability, birth or other status.” (Article 2) Yes “Parties recognize the right of the child to education, and with a view to achieving this right progressively and on the basis of equal opportunity” & “Parties shall take all appropriate measures to ensure that school discipline is administered in a manner consistent with the child’s human dignity and in conformity with the present Convention.” (Article 28)
Table 1: International law & education
George-Konstantinos Charonis A reasonable question to ask is: to what extent does international law correspond with LGBTQ young people’s everyday experiences? Research strongly suggests that as a result of homophobic bullying, LGBTQ young people are unable to enjoy the right to education.
Certain themes are common to many studies investigating LGBTQ young people’s experiences in school. Drawing primarily on data from Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States of America, a brief overview of the most common themes along with concrete examples of each is provided below. These three case studies were chosen due to availability of data; the analysis is not exhaustive or representative but can be viewed as broadly indicative. 1) Negative comments and namecalling EU: 91% of LGBT people living in the EU reported hearing negative comments or seeing negative conduct because a schoolmate was perceived to be LGBT during their schooling before the age of 18 (EU FRA 2013) UK: 99% of LGB youth hear phrases such as ‘that’s so gay’ or ‘you’re so gay’ in school (Stonewall 2012) US: 84.9% of students hear ‘gay’ used in a negative way frequently or often at school and 91.4% felt distressed because of this. Furthermore, 56.9% reported hearing homophobic remarks from teachers or other school staff (GLSEN 2011)
91% of LGBT people in the EU heard negative comments or saw negative conduct in school because a schoolmate was perceived to be LGBT.
2) Verbal harassment, cyberb ullying and physical abuse UK: 53% of gay pupils experience verbal bullying; 23% experience cyberbullying and 16% experience physical abuse, while 6% of LGB pupils are subject to death threats (Stonewall 2012) US: 38.3% of LGBT students were physically harassed (pushed or shoved) because of their sexual orientation and 27.1% because of their gender expression. 18.3% were physically assaulted (punched, kicked, etc…) because of their sexual orientation and 12.4% because of their gender expression. 55% experienced electronic harassment (GLSEN 2011). Canada: 74% of trans students, 55% of sexual minority students and 26% of non-LGBTQ students reported having been verbally harassed about their
IGLYO on Bullying gender expression, while 20% of LGBTQ students and almost 10% of non-LGBTQ students reported being physically harassed or assaulted about their perceived sexual orientation or gender identity (Egale 2011)
who experienced lower levels (10.7% vs. 5.1%) (GLSEN 2011) UK: homophobic bullying causes 32% of gay pupils who experience such bullying to change their plans for future education (Stonewall 2012)
3) Feeling of insecurity at school, reduced school attendance and performance Canada: 64% of LGBTQ students reported that they feel unsafe at school, while 30.2% reported skipping as they felt unsafe at school or on their way to school (Egale 2011) UK: 44% of LGB pupils who experience homophobic bullying skip school because of it, while 13% skip school more than six times (Stonewall 2012) US: 63.5% of LGBT students felt unsafe because of their sexual orientation, 43.9% because of their gender expression. 31.8% missed at least one entire day of school in the past month because they felt unsafe or uncomfortable. Students who were more frequently harassed due to their gender sexual orientation or gender expression had lower grade point averages than students who were less often harassed (2.9 vs. 3.2) (GLSEN 2011)
5) Mental health and wellbeing, including suicidality US: Students who experienced higher levels of victimisation based on their sexual orientation or gender expression had higher levels of depression than those who reported lower levels of those types of victimisation (GLSEN 2011) UK: 23% of LGB young people have tried to take their own life at some point, compared to 7% of all young people in general (Stonewall 2012)
4) Change of plans for future education US: Students who experienced higher levels of victimisation in school because of their sexual orientation or gender expression were more than twice as likely to report that they didn’t plan to pursue any post-secondary education than those
23% of LGB young people in the UK have tried to take their life
What international law dictates is inconsistent and even contradictory to the everyday school experiences of LGBT youth. With a multitude of severe effects on those exposed,
George-Konstantinos Charonis it can therefore be said that homophobic bullying constitutes a gross violation of the right to education, compounding the effect of social exclusion already faced by many LGBT young people.
Homophobic bullying is a topic that still remains largely ignored in many countries. UNESCO’s Good
Policy and Practice in HIV and Health Education Booklet number 8, Education Sector Responses to Homophobic Bullying (UNESCO 2012), offers a very good overview of the context and rationale for addressing homophobic bullying and possible ways of taking action, with concrete examples of policies and practices from across the globe.
REFERENCES Council of Europe, 1952. European Convention on Human Rights. Available online at: http://www.echr.coe. int/Documents/Convention_ENG.pdf Council of Europe, 2010. Committee of Ministers, Recommendation CM/Rec(2010)5 on measures to combat discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity. Available online at: https://wcd.coe.int/ViewDoc.jsp?id=1606669 Egale, 2011. Every class in every school: final report on the first national climate survey on homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia in Canadian schools. Available online at: http://archive.egale.ca/ EgaleFinalReport-web.pdf European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, 2013. EU LGBT survey: European Union lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender survey – Results at a glance. Available online at: http://fra.europa.eu/en/publication/2013/eu-lgbt-survey-european-union-lesbian-gay-bisexual-and-transgender-survey-results GLSEN, 2011. The 2011 National School Climate Survey – Executive Summary. Available online at: http://glsen.org/cgi-bin/iowa/all/news/record/2897.html Stonewall, 2012. The School Report: experiences of gay young people in Britain’s schools in 2012. Available online at: http://stonewall.org.uk/at_school/education_resources/7957.asp UNESCO, 2012. Good Policy and Practice in HIV and Health Education Booklet 8, Education Sector Responses to Homophobic Bullying. Available online at: http://unesdoc.unesco.org/ images/0021/002164/216493e.pdf United Nations, 1948. Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Available online at: http://www.un.org/en/ documents/udhr United Nations, 1966. International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Available online at: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/ProfessionalInterest/Pages/CESCR.aspx United Nations,1989. Convention on the Rights of the Child. Available online at: http://www.ohchr. org/en/professionalinterest/pages/crc.aspx The Yogyakarta Principles, 2006. Available online at: http://www.yogyakartaprinciples.org/principles_en.htm
IGLYO on Bullying
Teachers as a shield against homophobic bullying in education
The road to eliminating homophobic
So far, in the framework of our cam-
and transphobic bullying is possibly endless, so the least we could do is to put a shield against it. Our initiative “Shield against homophobia in education” was kicked off in the beginning of 2012 in Cyprus, and our aim has been to raise awareness regarding the phenomenon of homophobia in education and to initiate efforts of tackling it. Engaging teachers and administrators in such a process can be unexpectedly positive.
paign we have: • had our initiative placed under the auspices of the Commissioner for Children’s Rights, the Ombudswoman and the Ministry of Education and Culture and received support by the University of Cyprus and the Pedagogical Institute. • trained 80 teachers – who volunteered during their free time – on the topic of homophobia in education and offered them knowledge, skills and attitudes for prevent-
10 Constantinos Papageorgiou ing and combating homophobia (10 training hours split in 4 sessions). • evaluated the impact of our training program using repeated measures to tap knowledge, attitudes, perceived knowledge, and perceived competence to handle homophobic incidents by the teachers before, upon completion, and six months following the training. Results indicated significant gains post training completion compared to before, which were maintained at the 3 month follow up • conducted a first (in Cyprus) qualitative study on homophobia in education by conducting two focus groups (of teachers) • organized a conference to present the results of the abovementioned actions in the presence of official stakeholders and academics • participated in several conferences (in Cyprus, Slovenia, Argentina etc) to share our experience and resources • initiated discussions with stakeholders for the need of having official guidelines of preventing and combating homophobia in education (as an alternative to the absence of specific policy) and prepared a draft for such guidelines
It is very often the case that schools lack overt policies for handling homophobic bullying. Nevertheless, such incidences can – at a minimum – be placed in the context of children’s rights for diversity, safety, and the quality of their education1. Convincing ministerial administrators to form school General Assembly U.N., Convention on the Rights of the Child. 20 November 1989, United Nations.
policies against homophobia can present a big challenge, especially when school policies have to be voted by legislative bodies i.e. the Parliament. A question that they may pose is “Why is there a need to address this type of bullying specifically and not bully ing that targets any other types of minorities?” For us, the answer would be clear enough: Name any other type of bullying, other than homophobic one, that could make teachers feel as embarrassed, ashamed or afraid to intervene. Is there any other topic as much of a taboo as sexual orientation? It seems like a convincing answer too! The need to include sexual orientation issues in the curriculum could more easily be addressed if sexual orientation is included in the framework of a comprehensive sexual education. Com prehensive Sexuality Education treats sexu ality through a holistic approach. Sexual health is defined as a state of physical, emotional, mental and social well-being in relation to sexuality; it is not merely the absence of disease, dysfunction or infirmity2.
As mentioned above, in the context of this campaign focus groups were conducted with a random sample of teachers who participated in the trainings3. In the focus group discussions, teachers expressed that they considered their knowledge on sexuality or sexual orientation issues and specifically on intervening to homophobic incidences at their workplace to be inadequate. Inadequate knowledge may avert action because teachers do not feel sufficiently equipped to face the consequences that their anti-homophobic intervention may have. Consequently, very often they just ignore such incidences or
IGLYO on Bullying they take action without identifying them as homophobic. It was also mentioned that many teachers are not even aware of the term “homophobia”, so even if they feel that something strange is happening they cannot name it and conceptualise it as a type of prejudice.
Engaging teachers in tackling homophobic bullying does not demand running a national campaign. It can sometimes be achieved just through informal and short discussions. Tackling one of such incidences and then informing one or more colleagues of how this experience was may trigger a fruitful conversation that can possibly strengthen colleagues in their efforts to identify and intervene in such events. Friendly reminders to colleagues, of the following points, could also be effective in preventing and combating homophobic bullying: • Terms related to sexual orientation or gender identity should not be used as derogatory adjectives • Assumptions for the sexual orientation of anybody should be avoided • References to family types should be based on respect for the families of all children • Unfortunately, many teachers can act as perpetrators or passive bystanders of homophobic bullying. It is sometimes hard
2 World Health Organisation: Sexual Health http://www.who.int/reproductivehealth/topics/ sexual_health/sh_definitions/en/index.html
3 Kapsou, M., Shoshilou P. & Vasiliou E., Sketching the phenomenon of homophobia in education. 2012. Shield against homophobia in education.
to engage some people in actions against homophobia, if they believe that homosexual students (or those perceived to be homosexual) or gender non-conforming students are “faulty”. In such unfortunate cases, we have to be a very solid shield so that these people will, at least, restrain their behaviour or attitude.
It took humankind centuries before it was “evolved” enough to start fighting against homophobia. It seems that now in many countries, it is a good time to bring this issue under the spotlight. Throughout this process, it is crucial to remember that we, the educators, have huge responsibility to react to incidences that have the power to change the lives of people. For this purpose, homophobic bullying has to be treated with zero tolerance and responses should be aimed to challenge and deconstruct it.
Constantinos Papageorgiou is a teacher in disadvantaged areas in Cyprus. He is also training adults and teachers in Human Rights, Intercultural education, Diversity, Gender etc using “Non-formal education” and “Theatre education” as tools. He is engaged in the Civil Society of Cyprus through organizations such as the "Youth for Exchange and Understanding", "Pool of Trainers" and “Cyprus Family Planning Association”. He is the co-ordinator of the campaign "Shield against homophobia in education" in Cyprus.
12 Geert-Jan Edelenbosch
Combatting Homophobia in Education 12 The COCâ€™s Inside-Out Approach
Founded almostÂ 70 years ago, the COC was the first LGBT organisation in the world and remains one of the largest. The COC focuses on campaigning and political lobbying to support LGBT activists in their efforts to continue the dialogue on homosexuality in their own environment. The COC has many programmes across all layers of society, all based on the principle that the activist is in charge. The COC has been run-
ning programmes to eradicate homophobia in schools since the 1970s. For more than 20 years our approach was to try to educate students, teachers and school boards about sexual diversity. Schools would sometimes invite us to come in, but we would usually have to try hard to get into these schools and convince them it was necessary to raise awareness and discuss tolerance towards LGBT people. As an outsider it is very difficult to get
IGLYO on Bullying schools to cooperate or start a process that truly leads to more acceptance of LGBT people in schools. The friendlier schools would say ‘there are no issues here, so we don’t see why we would have you come in’, but many schools had no desire whatsoever to discuss the topic. After years of failed attempts the COC revised its approach and is now hugely successful in achieving results.
When asked about their attitude towards gays and lesbians, 96% of the population of the Netherlands has an impartial to positive view of homosexuality. The general acceptance of gays and lesbians has increased, but there is less acceptance of homosexuality in people’s immediate surroundings and in public life. People generally agree with equality for LGBTs, but find it harder to accept two men or two women kissing in public. Moreover, some 50% of students have problems with homosexuality being expressed openly. Recent studies have shown that 50% of LGB youngsters have suicidal thoughts: 9% of gay male teenagers and 16% of lesbian teenagers have at some point attempted to commit suicide. This is up to five times higher than among their straight peers. Risk groups are Christian LGBT youth, bisexuals and LGBs of non-Dutch origin, and these numbers are much higher still for transgender youngsters. Students and school staff have different perceptions of social acceptance of LGBTs. Teaching staff and school boards often fail to see what is really happening and therefore fail to detect problems, while LGBT students say they don’t feel safe enough to come out. We speak to these teenagers on a daily basis. They experience bullying, name-calling and social exclusion.
Since the 1970s the COC has offered programmes for secondary schools to initiate dialogue about sexual diversity and social acceptance. Storytellers from local COC organisations visit schools and offer an informative class about sexual diversity. The COC’s storytellers are welcome in 15% of Dutch schools. The work of the storytellers is invaluable – most students feel it is their first contact with a ‘real’ gay person – but the unsatisfactory aspect of this approach is that the role models are invited to schools that are already sensitive to LGBT issues. Schools that prefer to avoid the issue will ask storytellers, who are always outsiders, to visit and thus shirk their own responsibility. These storytellers never belong to that particular community, so who will take responsibility for keeping up the dialogue about sexual diversity in these schools?
of LGB youngsters
in the Netherlands have suicidal thoughts
The COC has tried to approach schools to expose the problems of LGBT youth in secondary schools and demonstrate the urgency of creating a safe environment for everyone. Unfortunately, most school boards did not respond to our appeals, infer-
ring that they had received no signals from students or staff about homophobia being a problem. The COC then developed the ‘Inside-Out’ approach, which focuses on the fact that there are LGBT youngsters in every community. Secondary schools were telling us they did not want to address the issue of homophobia, because they assumed the problem did not exist at their school, but this was often based on the fact that LGBT people attending their school remained in the closet for fear of discrimination. We decided to try to illustrate the problems from the inside out. Once students and teachers speak up within their own communities, school boards cannot state that it is not an issue. The work of COC Netherlands is now primarily focused on empowering LGBT people and giving them the confidence to improve their own situation. The COC believes that LGBT communities are responsible for their own emancipation process. Typically that process is led by active members of the community (activists), who decide on direction, pace and activities. The COC’s role is to support, connect, facilitate, coach and most importantly to give activists the confidence and focus to take these activities forward.
The COC has set up three different projects for young people and schools to em power young LGBT people and create a safer environment for them. The backbone of the COC’s youth programme is Young&Out, its community for LGBT teenagers. The programme has helped establish 12 different groups with a total of 2,200 members under the age of 18. The COC provides support and facilities, but the groups organ-
ise their own activities. This includes a thriving web community, which was set up by the COC but has gradually been transferred back to the community. The Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA), a joint initiative of straight and LGBT people, was set up to fight homophobia and create a safer school environment for everyone. Many teenagers learned about the GSA concept through Young&Out and started a group in their own school.
Taking a classic grassroots, bottom-up approach, GSA members stimulate dialogue about sexual diversity with their peers, create visibility for sexual diversity and put homophobia on the agenda for teachers and school management. However, LGBT students in many schools continue to feel that the atmosphere is too hostile to come out or discuss the GSA. The COC has developed the Pink Elephant project to tackle these cases, operating like the A-team for LGBT people. The GSA Network’s most successful campaign is the annual Purple Friday, which was introduced in the Netherlands on 10 December 2010. GSAs asked their peers and teachers to wear purple to school as a statement against homophobia. It was a huge success with more than 150 schools taking part. Many GSAs organised activities and even schools without an active GSA made an event around Purple Friday and provided information in class. On our most recent Purple Friday in 2012, GSAs at 450 of the 680 secondary schools in the Netherlands joined in. The event resulted in nationwide exposure and put LGBT issues on the agenda in a positive way.
IGLYO on Bullying
Engaging Teachers and Administrators to
Tackle Bullying Suzanne Bray
Local research has revealed that 80 percent of LGBTQ young people who partici pated in the Writing Themselves In 3 study (2010) identified school as the location where homophobic abuse occurred. This figure is alarming and justifies the need by schools to take immediate action. The RESPECT: Supporting Sexual and Gender Diversity project is a Melbourne based initiative that has been established to help improve the health, wellbeing and educational success of Same Sex Attracted and Gender Questioning (SSAGQ1) young people by challenging homo1 However, in this publication we use the acronym LGBTQ to fit with IGLYO’s language.
phobia in schools. It is a place based project that involves schools (including teachers and school nurses), community organisations who work with young people, local government and police. This early intervention initiative supports LGBTQ young people, schools, community organisations and parents and families.
Engaging Teachers and Schools The RESPECT Schools Network has recently been established and represents 13 secondary schools in the middle south region of Mel bourne which meets on a quarterly basis over breakfast. This network is an opportunity for
16 Suzanne Bray teachers to come together, share ideas and support each other around issues of sexual and gender diversity within their community while being supported by experts who work with young people around their emotional and social wellbeing. It’s an opportunity for schools to ensure that they are safe and inclusive educational environments where LGBTQ young people can feel supported and have the ability to learn and be themselves while stamping out homophobic bullying. The framework that is used to guide this work with teachers is the ‘Supporting Sexual Diversity in Schools: A Guide’ resource developed by the Safe Schools Coalition Victoria, an initiative dedicated to creating safer educational environments that is funded by the Victorian Department of Education and Early Childhood Development. At each of the meetings, teachers and community workers share and discuss how they can support LGBTQ young people and simultaneously challenge homophobic bullying that may exist in their school community. A number of practical interventions, as outlined by the Safe Schools Coalition Victoria, have occurred to date. These include ensuring that posters and resources that promote support services available to LGBTQ young people are accessible to students, teachers and administrators. It also involves the teachers involved in the network being aware and promoting the training and professional development that is available to their teacher and school administration colleagues to ensure that the school community is aware of the need to address homophobia, be aware of their own individual values and to develop a curriculum that is inclusive of all sexualities. The network is currently advocating for school policy to specifically name and address
homophobic bullying. After the meetings, teachers are encouraged to return to their schools and be champions for sexual and gender diversity in their schools and advocate for a school community where diversity is respected and LGBTQ young people are free from bullying and harassment.
Challenging Language Several schools recently were involved in an expo where their students had the opportunity to hear from different organisations about the emotional and social wellbeing services and programs that are provided to young people. RESPECT participated in this expo and spoke about the need to be mindful of the language that is used by young people.
Listening to language such as ”that’s so gay” repeatedly at school does not create an environment that is conducive or safe to ‘coming out’. The expression, ”that’s so gay” is often used in the school yard by young people. It is said as a derogatory term, a put down and used to describe something or someone that is considered bad or negative. Young people who are exploring their sexuality may often feel a myriad of emotion during this time, such as confusion. For young people questioning their sexuality, listening to language such as, ”that’s so gay” repeatedly
IGLYO on Bullying
at school does not create an environment that is conducive or safe to ‘coming out’. At the school expos, the RESPECT Steering Committee, in collaboration with teachers, led conversations around challenging young people’s language. It provided opportunities for the students involved to develop an understanding, despite what may be perceived to be non-derogatory or hurtful language, and how this can actually be harmful and destructive to a young person exploring his or her sexuality and gender. The workshops were opportunities to challenge language, to explore how we all are different and to develop empathy. The young people gained an understanding that LGBTQ young people can be ‘invisible’ and that we shouldn’t assume that this cohort of young people do not exist because they are not ‘out’. It was also an opportunity for students to reflect upon their own use of language and a chance to receive permission to challenge this language, for themselves and others.
Supporting Student Activism – Gay Straight Alliances Teachers involved in the RESPECT initiative are actively supporting student activism around challenging homophobia in their school com munity by establishing gay straight alliances. These proactive groups consist of teachers and students who are committed to ensuring that schools are safe environments for LGBTQ young people. The students plan awareness raising activities and embraced the celebration of sexual and gender diversity in a positive manner. Recently, to celebrate IDAHO Day, teachers and students organised an active campaign to begin conversations about sexuality and gender, discrimination and bullying. Students briefed the school community about the symbolism of wearing a rainbow ribbon and how this demonstrated their support for students of all
18 Suzanne Bray sexualities and genders and fostering a fair and safe school community. Almost all students and teachers signed the pledge to wear a ribbon in each of the participating schools. RESPECT teachers and students recently organised to attend as a collective the ‘Equal Love: Rally for Marriage Equality’ in Melbourne, showing their support for changes to the Marriage Act. Teachers are actively supporting and empowering students to be agents of change in their school community by tackling homophobic bullying in schools.
The Rainbow Zebra RESPECT schools proudly display the Rainbow Zebra in their educational institution. The rainbow zebra is featured on resources that outline services and organisations that provide support to LGBTQ young people. The zebra is a metaphor for sexuality; generally black and white, the rainbow zebra promotes that sexuality is not always black and white and that diversity is embraced. The Rainbow Zebra promotes tolerance and acceptance. Schools that display the Rainbow Zebra will not tolerate discrimination or bullying. Finally, the message for LGBTQ
young people is that you are not alone and that schools have a responsibility to be safe environment for all young people. The RESPECT Steering Committee and RESPECT Schools Network in partnership are champions and supporters of implementing positive change and creating a community free of homophobic bullying. The schools, teachers and administrators, youth workers and students involved in the RESPECT initiative understand that LGBTQ young people who are supported and feel safe from harm will have improved health, wellbeing and educational outcomes. The initiative is about embracing diversity and showing some RESPECT.
References Hillier, L., et al. (2010). Writing Themselves in 3, Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society, La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia. Smith, B., et al. (2010). Supporting Sexual Diversity in Schools: A Guide, Safe Schools Coalition Victoria, Melbourne, Australia.
Suzanne Bray coordinates the RESPECT: Supporting Sexual and Gender Diversity initiative in her role as the Senior Partnership Broker for Community at the Bayside Glen Eira Kingston Local Learning and Employment Network (BGK LLEN), a not for profit organisation based in Melbourne Australia. Suzanne has worked in the Youth Sector for over 10 years as a qualified Social Worker and is passionate about working with the community and bringing people together with the shared goal of empowering young people and their families to achieve their full potential. She is committed to the principles of social justice and ensuring that all ‘voices’ are heard.
IGLYO on Bullying
HOMOPHOBIC BULLYING in Educational Institutions Gian Piero Carlo Milani
Some of the environments in which homo/transphobic bullying is perpetrated more often are the educational. This may be due to both the high concentration of youngsters in such environments as well as the long time that such youngsters spend in educational institutions. The actions of the LGBT movement in recent years have been focused mainly in addressing and tackling phenomena of bullying in the formal education. The reasons of this choice can be seen in the structure of the academic system, which can be influenced with a top-down approach by advocating with the policy-makers. In many countries, LGBT Associations have established links with the Ministries of Education in their own countries, contribut-
ing to the establishment of national policies to prevent bullying based on sexual orientation and gender identity through the writing of inclusive school curricula and the establishment and implementation of specific policies.
Special attention must be likewise reserved to tackle bullying in nonformal educational contexts, like the educational processes that occur in the scout movements worldwide. By their own nature such environments have been until now mainly gender-segregated, and the implementation of a gender-binary model may cause or reinforce the phenomena of bullying toward the people who don’t want to fit in a single gender identity or in conventional gender
20 Gian Piero Carlo Milani roles. Furthermore, in such environments the youngsters often spend time in activities like camps which are mostly gender segregated and in which social exclusion as a result of bullying may become extremely harmful.
CONSEQUENCES OF BULLYING IN EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTIONS 1) Academic consequences • The first consequence is related to the nature of the Educational System and its social function in communicating knowledge. An education that is imparted in a noninclusive environment enforces discrimination for future generations. It’s important to mention this factor, even if it cannot be measured or monitored precisely through studies and data gathering. • Bullying influences the general environment of the school, damaging the educational processing and jeopardizing the results and outcomes: research and studies have demonstrated the strong link between bullying and poor academic achievement. Victims of bullying have a lower level of school attendance than their peers, also because they may skip classes or courses or even entire days of school to avoid to be bullied. For the same reasons victims of bullying have a higher tendency to leave school early. Such factors may put on risk also the future chances of employment of the victims and must be stressed when working with heads of school to put emphasis on the consequences of bullying at the educational level and the fact that bullying may seriously jeopardize the schoolwork.
2) Consequence on health and well-being • The first and most notable consequence of bullying and violence in educational environments is the phenomenon of social exclusion and marginalization. Victims of bullying are segregated from the peer group, which results in having fewer friends, which may increase the sense of loneliness. • To protect themselves from violence and social exclusion, many LGBTQ young people hide their sexual orientation and gender identity, and this may bring to dysfunctional relationships with peers and family. (Takács J, 2006. Social exc lusion of young lesbian gay, bisexual and trans gender (LGBT) people in Europe. IGLYO/ ILGA Europe.) • The link between social exclusion and depression, anxiety, loss of self-confidence and sleep disturbance has been proven by studies and researches worldwide. More and more, the average of suicide attempts between LGBTQ young students victim of bullying is much higher than that of their peers. In Ireland LGBT, people have even been recognized as vulnerable group in the National Suicide Prevention Strategy.
For the reasons outlined above, it is clear that a well-developed strategy should be formulated to tackle bullying in both formal and nonformal educational environments, first by nongovernmental organizations close to LGBTQ young people who are bullied, then presented to policy makers who can institute concrete change in society through educational systems.
IGLYO on Bullying
at UniC jouke van buuren
Eighteen-year-old Nathan is a driving force behind the Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) at the UniC in Utrecht. He’s in the final year of his pre-university education and has been involved in the GSA since it was established in the summer of 2012. So tell us something about yourself. – I live with my parents and two younger sisters in Leersum, about an hour’s cycle from my school. I do a bit of weightlifting and I love football and films.
In addition I act and sing. My biggest idols are Jamai Loman and René van Kooten, who are amazing musical stars who have the talent to completely inhabit their roles. That’s something I would like to do. I’m also really passionate about history, I’m really intrigued by how things originated. And to earn some money I work as a waiter in a restaurant. Why did you decide to go to UniC? – The special thing about this school is that there are so many possibilities. I
22 jouke van buuren mean if you want to start up a GSA there is the leeway and enthusiasm to do it. They even welcome input into how lessons are given. A major difference with other schools is that we regard the teachers as equals and they see us as equals. That’s one way of creating a really cool relationship between teacher and pupil. So cooperation and respect are really important in our school and I think that makes a difference. Do people get teased at your school? – You sometimes hear about it in the lower years, but the school deals with it well. Then the teaser and the person being teased have to talk with each other under the supervision of a mediator and that’s how it’s sorted out. Somebody rarely has to endure teasing for long. I personally find the atmosphere at school is pretty relaxed and I feel totally comfortable there. I can just be myself. And I think that applies for most of the people. Tell us more about your GSA. – We now have a core group of 12 active members and around that there’s a group of about 25 sympathisers who lend a hand with things like the GSA Week and other activities. The hard core thinks up the plans and executes them together with the sympathisers. In addition we have a couple of supportive teachers who maintain contact with the school management, which is really useful if you want to get things done. We meet about once or twice a month and we meet more often as an activity
or event approaches. An email is sent out via the GSA mail and that’s how we know there’s a meeting. We also have a group chat on WhatsApp with the active members, so we can discuss things quickly and easily. What kind of things does your GSA do? – Each year we organise a GSA week, when the theme of the lessons is sexual diversity. During the GSA week the active members adopt a subject teacher and talk with them about how he or she will flesh out the lesson. For example, in history we look into the history of homosexuality and in biology into the biological aspects of whether homosexuality is genetically determined. During the GSA week there’s also a board hanging in the corridor with a new statement every day, and everyone is welcome to post their reaction to it. We also organise Purple Friday on the second Friday in December. Then we ask everybody to wear purple clothing as a statement against homophobia, and it’s becoming more and more purple at our school every year. We’re also keen to be the point of contact for people who are having a difficult time at school, but we’re rarely contacted about things like that. And last year we organised the National GSA Day, when several GSAs meet to compare experiences and share tips. The thing that most impressed me was the students from other schools who are faced with hostility to their GSA from their school directors but push on with their GSA all the same. It’s not at every school that they have it as easy as we do.
IGLYO on Bullying Your GSA is active on international platforms as well. – That’s right. At the start of the year we went to Brussels to make recommendations to the European Parliament together with schools from Belgium, Italy and Estonia, and during the international IDAHO conference we were in The Hague to talk with ministers from other countries. I sat at the same table as the minister from Malta, which was great, because I was really curious about what things are like in Malta and what the government is doing about things there. Other members of our GSA talked with ministers from Austria and Sweden. How do you recruit new members? – Every year we do the rounds of all the first-year classes and tell them about the GSA. In addition we send an email to the whole school via GSA mail, to tell people who we are and that everyone is welcome to support us. Then the people who want to join the GSA can attend a meeting. How does the rest of your school react to the GSA? – Really positively. We get lots of good reactions, and parents also tell us that we are doing a great job, and that makes me really proud. I might get teased by my friends for ‘being the leader of the gay gang’, but fortunately I know it’s all good fun. They’re totally behind me and they’re not scared to show it, which is really great.
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IGLYO 17 Rue de la Charité 1210, Brussels Belgium www.iglyo.com contributors Suzanne Bray, Jouke van Buuren, George-Konstantinos Charonis, Geert-Jan Edelenbosch, Gian Piero Carlo Milani, Constantinos Papageorgiou. design Hilda Forss http://www.hildablue.com/design
This publication is published with supportof the European Community Programme for Employment and Social Solidarity PROGRESS (2007-2013), the Council of Europe European Youth Foundation and the Government of the Netherlands. The information contained in this publication does not necessarily reflect the position or opinion of the European Commission, Council of Europe or the Government of the Netherlands.