Education for all – Taking action against homophobic bullying

Manchester is planning a separate school for LGBT students. I’m beyond furious!

There is no earthly reason why mainstream schools cannot support their LGBT students, except that they lack the will to do so. There shouldn’t need to be separate schools where students can be safe; every single school should be safe for every single student. The end. For always.

Homophobic bullying has very little to do with sexual orientation and everything to do with gender stereotyping.  Homophobic bullying punishes children for not conforming to gender stereotypes. Many teachers and parents let homophobic bullying slide because they think it will encourage the victim to conform, to ‘man up’ or ‘be more ladylike’ (you think I’m kidding – I wish I was).

If homophobic bullying is happening in your child’s school, it will affect your child, regardless of their sexual identity or orientation, or even whether or not it is happening to them directly. It will reinforce every single gender stereotype and all the consequent limitations they place on your child.

So, wearing my teacher (“behaviour specialist” actually dahling) hat, here is what you can do, regardless of your child’s orientation.

  • All schools are bound by the 2010 Equalities Act, which defines certain ‘protected characteristics’, including sexual identity and orientation. They have to set Equality Objectives which show what they are doing to promote equality in the school. The majority don’t bother, but if you ask what their Equality Objectives are and where you can read them, it may be enough to spark a reaction.
  • All schools should have policies relating to homophobic bullying, again, many don’t. Ask to see the policy
  • Ask what the school is doing to promote community cohesion – this is a great tactic where there may be perceived conflicts of opinion. I use this to justify my work for LGBT equality in a school where the majority of students come from hostile religions. The promotion of community cohesion is another legal obligation covered by the Equalities Act.
  • If all else fails, bring out the big gun – Ofsted. Schools are required to show what they are doing to to tackle homophobic bullying. Indicate that you would be prepared to discuss any lack of action with Ofsted.
  • Lastly, and most importantly, if your child is experiencing homophobic bullying, this is a child protection issue. This is a really important phrase to use when dealing with the school as it has massive legal implications. Once you have raised something as a child protection issue, the school is compelled to investigate and take action. If they don’t, you can contact Ofsted directly, which can result in a “We’re at the gate, let us in” no-notice inspection. If you are a student experiencing homophobic bullying, you can use this phrase too and it will have the same effect.

There are lots of organisations which help schools to tackle homophobic bullying. “Educate and Celebrate” and “Schools Out” are just two. A quick internet search will give you loads more. I’m happy to share what we do at my school, just leave a message below. Just don’t feel that there isn’t anything you can do. There is.

Post Script

Just after this blog was originally posted, Grindon Hall, a Christian school in Sunderland, was put into special measures for failing to protect its students against homophobic bullying.

The Ofsted report actually states the following in the list of reasons why the school failed: “Prejudice-based bullying, while reported on, is not tackled effectively enough. Discrimination through racist or homophobic language persists.”

I’ll admit, I felt rather smug!

Education for all – Taking action against homophobic bullying

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