Irish Teachers Not Comfortable Tackling Anti-Gay Bullying


At a Department of Education in-service course in Dublin, Irish primary school teachers have said they do not feel comfortable or are afraid to tackle anti-gay bullying.

The course is a first of its kind, week-long affair approved by the department and organized by Belong To Youth Services, an LGBT youth advocacy group, alongside Educate Together which runs 58 nondenominational schools across Ireland.

Teachers at the course have already told of how children at startlingly young age appear to be associating words like “gay” with negative emotions and situations, and that, while of course teachers would aim to tackle all forms of bullying and bullying-related behavior, they feel under-equipped to tackle this kind of issue.

From the Irish Times:

“Teachers are simply not as comfortable dealing with it like they would be if it was racist bullying or any other kind of bullying,” said Molly O’Duffy, a teacher who attended yesterday’s course and who is ethos development officer with Educate Together.

While emphasising that children in older classes knew exactly what the term gay meant, Ms O’Duffy explained that for children of all ages, it was often used to describe something they disliked.

“Children, typically boys, can use the word to describe another who is not conforming to a typical stereotype of what a boy is – they understand that it is bad and that it is never good to be called gay.

“We need to be able to give the teachers and the principals the skills to face up to homophobic bullying and deal with it in an age-appropriate way,” Ms O’Duffy added.

Course instructor and advocacy co-ordinator with Belong To Youth Service Carol-Anne O’Brien said this was sorely lacking in the current primary education system.

“It is the type of bullying that [teachers] feel least prepared for. There is a lack of training and support and teachers don’t want to take on something that they do not feel comfortable about.”

Course instructors heard that children of seven and eight are using words like “gay” and “queer” to describe things they do not like, and this is already having an impact on other children.

This from a separate Irish Times piece:

Apart from the obvious distress this is likely to cause children who begin to discover their sexuality as they grow older, behaviour like this, said Ms O’Duffy, made life for children from same-sex marriages particularly difficult as they tried to integrate into normal school life.

“I’ve heard of parents having to give their children a line to explain their home situation. It’s outrageous that a four-year-old would need a line.”

The issue here is perhaps more tricky than it would first appear.

Teachers are likely hampered when discussing why the word “gay”  as a pejorative is unacceptable because they are wondering if there will be fall-out from parents who question the age appropriateness of teachers discussing matters that, even in the abstract, relate to sexual orientation.

This further emphasizes the need for robust anti-bullying frameworks that allow parents to understand the role they must play in helping their children learn why these behaviors can be hurtful.

As such, Ireland recently stepped up its anti-bullying efforts where LGBT children and LGBT topics are concerned. Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn issued new guidelines in May that 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 in Irish schools, something of course not unique to Ireland but worrying nonetheless. Read more on that here.

Related Reading:
Stand Up for Bullied LGBT Teens (VIDEO)
Ireland Begins Recognizing Same-Sex Partnerships from Abroad
Vets Excluded from Official St. Patrick’s Day Parade Create Gay-Inclusive Peace Parade


Photo used under the Creative Commons Attribution License, with thanks to jglsongs.


Abbe A.
Azaima A5 years ago

They need to transcend their discomfort to do the right thing

Abbe A.
Azaima A5 years ago


Eternal Gardener
Eternal Gardener6 years ago

For this cause you have to be fearless... imagine how gay people must feel!

Christine S.
Christine S6 years ago

Any bullying should be stopped- I don't understand why anti-gay bullying should be difficult to deal with- you just say- stop picking on so-and-so just because you think he's/she's different from you, ....

K s Goh
KS Goh6 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Stephan B.
Stephan B6 years ago

Another country not for Americans to consider retiring to. The topic is becoming minimally controversial in other. Might as well be a GLBT in an African nation.The Irish seem to need a group to hate as much as any third world county.

The pictures are pretty though.

Brenda Gilbert
Brenda Gilbert6 years ago

It's so important to train people to do their jobs well. I applaud the Irish Ministry of Education for this initiative.
I can't agree at all with the people who are attacking Irish teachers for being honest enough to express their feelings of inadequacy and to ask for help in improving their skills. It was sensible and courageous of them and can only lead to improvements in the system.

Lilithe Magdalene

Cherie - WRONG! Most adults who are gay, knew when they were l=small children.

You know, I love South Park, but I credit them and The Simpsons with this mess - kids idolize these characters, and they use "gay" as a slur constantly on these shows. If kids are old enough to watch those shows and start using gay pejoratively, they are old enough to be told what it means, and why it is so wrong to use it to descibe something bad or wrong.

Luvenia V.
Luvenia V6 years ago

These are children and should be treated as such. Just teach them NOT to be a bully and teach them that No two people are alike. Children do not hate and are not racist or bigots by nature, they learn that and it is the racist and bigots at home that need to learn to cope. If they do that the children will be fine.

Lauryn Slotnick
Lauryn S6 years ago

Also, meant to add that all bullying and name-calling should be dealt with in the same way, especially with kids too young to even know what "gay" means.