New guidelines on how to create a safe and supportive environment for LGBT students were launched in Ireland this week.
The guidelines, issued by Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn, aim to give teachers support in dealing with issues relating to LGBT identity and to create specific frameworks through which schools can handle issues of LGBT bullying. This is in direct response to research that found LGBT students currently face pervasive levels of homophobia and bullying related to their sexual orientation or gender identity.
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In launching the new guidelines, Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn said, “The 21st century school should be one that is safe and supportive of all students, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.”
He continued, “I am considering the establishment of a working group comprising all the relevant sections of my department, along with the NGOs involved in this area and the education partners, to help draft a road map towards the elimination of homophobic bullying from our schools.”
The Minster went on to say that “Young gay men and women must be allowed to come to terms with their own identities and sexualities without fear of hostility or violence. We should support all of our young people to be at ease with themselves and with others, regardless of difference. Bullying of all forms, and targeted bullying of young LGBT people in particular, should receive no welcome in our schools and our society.”
It is thought that, while bullying against LGBTs has been a known problem for some years, teachers and school authorities have lacked an effective, uniform framework that they could use to tackle the issue.
As such, the new guidelines have been welcomed by local education authorities.
Clive Byrne, director of the National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals (NAPD), who consulted on the development of the guidelines, is quoted as saying: “Respect and tolerance must be at the heart of every school. NAPD believes strongly that the school leader sets the tone and must preside over a school climate which recognises and encourages tolerance and diversity and is both a happy and inclusive environment where students can thrive.”
Byrne added: “The school leader sets the tone and must preside over a school climate which recognises and encourages tolerance and diversity.”
LGBT rights groups also praised the introduction of these new guidelines, with Sandra Irwin-Gowran, director of education policy at the Gay and Lesbian Education Network (GLEN) saying: “Homophobic bullying can significantly impact on the educational and life chances of a young LGBT person, and unchecked, it has an impact on all students who learn the high price of being different.”
More information on the framework and how it is hoped it will impact schools can be found at GLEN’s website here.
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