Homophobic bullying still major issue in schools, say activists

More than half LGBT people report being called hurtful names over sexual orientation

All second-level schools are being given education packs this week on tackling homophobic and transphobic bullying as part of a national campaign. Photograph: Getty Images/Hemera

All second-level schools are being given education packs this week on tackling homophobic and transphobic bullying as part of a national campaign. Photograph: Getty Images/Hemera

 

Homophobic bullying remains a major problem in Irish schools despite greater openness to lesbian, gay and transgender issues, campaigners have warned.

All second-level schools are being given education packs this week on tackling homophobic and transphobic bullying as part of a “stand up!” national campaign.

Belong To – a national organisation for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) young people – has warned that much more work remains to be done to improve the daily lives of young people.

Ireland changed what it means to grow up lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender in Ireland in May this year with a resounding yes in the marriage equality referendum,” said Belong To’s executive director, Moninne Griffith.

“However, we know from other countries where marriage equality has been introduced that homophobia and transphobia unfortunately do not disappear overnight.

Mental health difficulties

Research indicates that homophobic and transphobic bullying is one of the most common forms of bullying experienced by young people and is linked to mental health difficulties.

A 2009 survey funded by the HSE’s national office for suicide prevention found that more than half of people surveyed reported being called hurtful names over their sexual orientation.

Organisers say an updated study, to be released shortly, indicates the problem appears to have grown even bigger in the meantime.

A succession of studies have linked high levels of mental health problems with LGBT young people who have been subjected to bullying behaviour.

Organisers of the “stand up!” campaign estimate it will reach about a quarter of all secondary schools, helping more than 55,000 students. Education packs distributed to schools focus on friendship and call on young people across Ireland to support their LGBT friends.

Minister for Education Jan O’Sullivan said she was deeply committed to tackling homophobic and transphobic bullying in all schools.

“I urge every post-primary school to take part in this important initiative. It continues to go from strength to strength each year and is a great campaign, with benefits for students and entire school communities,” she said, at a launch event in Limerick on Monday.

The campaign has the support of a broad range of education bodies including teachers’ unions, parents’ groups as well as the National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals, the Education and Training Board, the Association of Community and Comprehensive Schools, and Educate Together.