Irish secondary schools are being encouraged to create “safe spaces” and supports for LGBT students to help combat issues such as depression and self-harm.
Cork Institute of Technology’s LGBT Society has produced what it says is the country’s first handbook on how to set up “gay/straight alliances” in schools.
It says these after-school clubs for students provide safe places for students to talk and learn about LGBT issues and topics, but to also find support from or give support to their peers.
The handbook, which has been sent to more than 500 secondary schools in Ireland in print or online, was launched at a function in Cork on Wednesday by the city’s Lord Mayor Cllr Mick Finn.
The initiative has already attracted support from the principals of a number of Cork schools, including those with a strong Catholic ethos.
Tadhg Ó Laighin, principal of Coláiste Daibhéid, a co-educational secondary school in Cork’s Ballintemple, said it was important work for a vulnerable section of every school community.
“ Inclusivity and support for all our students in Coláiste Daibhéid is a central part of what we strive for,” he said.
Kevin Barry, principal of Deerpark CBS, said he has happy to support the project from the beginning.
“Deerpark is a Catholic co-educational secondary school in the Edmund Rice tradition. It was the first school in Cork to raise the rainbow flag in support of LGBT staff and students,” he said,
“As principal of this wonderful school community, I strongly believe that the more we can all do to help break down the barriers of ignorance, exclusion and intolerance through projects like this, then the better for all young people, not just LGBT young people”.
The chair of CIT’s LGBT Society, Konrad Im, said the project was inspired by the experiences of society members.
He said many young people were seeking such supports from their secondary schools but there was a lack of information on how to go about and maintain such a group.
“We’re delighted to be able to help provide this information and are overwhelmed with the support we’ve received in the process. It is our hope that this project will help the vulnerable young people that we’ve seen come through our society over the years and those that we’ll see in the future,” he said.
The handbook says after-school clubs for students should be open and inclusive to LGBT studetns as well as “straight allies” and students with LGBT families.
It says they are usually run by students under the supervision of a supervisort, such as a principal, counsellor or teachers.