LGBT students say they feel ‘unwelcome’ at school

Written by: Simon Doyle | Published:

Almost half of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) pupils in Northern Ireland secondary schools say they have been bullied and two in three say that they feel unwelcome in schools.

The North’s Department of Education sought to obtain both qualitative and quantitative information directly from LGBT young people (16 to 21) on the issues affecting them within the secondary school environment. Their views were captured through an online survey.

The research shows that 48 per cent of LGBT pupils claim to have been bullied as a result of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

The main forms of bullying include name-calling, lies or false rumours, being isolated by other pupils or hit, kicked, pushed, shoved around. However, fewer than one in four report the bullying to a member of school staff.

About two in three indicated that they did not feel welcomed or valued within school while six per cent had to move school because of how their issues were managed.

More positively, more than half (55 per cent) felt school was a safe place for them to be. Around 68 per cent found other pupils to be the most supportive and 12.8 per cent mentioned class teachers.

But more than 92 per cent indicated that there was insufficient information available in relation to LGBT issues within their post-primary school.

Avril Hall Callaghan, general secretary of the Ulster Teachers’ Union, says the whole issue of sexuality seems to be perennially and especially fraught in Northern Ireland, “for teachers as well as pupils, for given the statistics, at the very least, Northern Ireland must have hundreds of LGBT teachers”.

She continued: “The insidiousness of the issue adds to its sensitivity and we need a cultural and societal change if we are to address it fully.

“For rather than having full-blown discrimination against LGBT teachers and pupils, they are often encountering more subtle – intentional or not – but nonetheless totally unacceptable in this day and age.”


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