Most LGBTQ+ students feel unsafe in Irish schools, Belong To report finds

An alarming number of LGBTQ+ students reported hearing homophobic remarks from other students and staff in Irish schools.

This article is about LGBTQ+ students feeling unsafe in schools. In the photo, students with their backs facing the camera in a school gym.
Image: Via Pexels - cottonbro studio

According to a new report from Belong To, 76% of LGBTQ+ students feel unsafe in second-level schools across Ireland, with many of them reporting that they have heard homophobic remarks from other students and school staff.

The new 2022 School Climate Survey was published today, November 15, by LGBTQ+ youth organisation Belong To. This year, 1,208 LGBTQ+ students from second-levels schools in all 26 counties of the Republic of Ireland took part in the survey and were asked about their feelings of safety, experiences of discrimination and harassment and availability of support at school.

As highlighted in the findings, 76% of these students reported feeling unsafe at school, with 1 in 3 saying that they have skipped school to avoid negative treatment related to their LGBTQ+ identity. Bathrooms, PE, sports facilities, locker rooms and lunchrooms are the spaces where LGBTQ+ students reported feeling most unsafe and they thus tend to avoid them.

“The worst experience I had was in PE. We were doing push ups and I wasn’t keeping my back straight. Someone commented I had my ass in the air because I was gay,” said one of the participants. “I laughed it, off but afterward he and two other students attempted to assault me.”

Moreover, 69% of the participants in the survey said that they heard homophobic remarks from other students, while 58% said they heard similar comments from school staff. “I think a big part of my depression in life has been since I found out I’m gay when I was 14-15,” another queer student said. “At first I hated myself because of it, I used to pray and wish I was ‘normal’ because that’s how students in school treated LGBTQ+ people.”

In a more positive light, 99% of LGBTQ+ students reported that they know at least one member of the staff that supports their identity, which, as research shows, is important for queer students to feel more accepted even by their peers and makes them less likely to miss school to avoid victimisation.

The results of the survey were published during this year’s Stand Up Awareness Week, Ireland’s largest LGBTQ+ anti-bullying campaign created by Belong To, which runs from November 14 to 18 and invites schools and youth centres all over the country to organise activities to combat anti-LGBTQ+ bullying.

Speaking about the report, CEO of Belong To, Moninne Griffith said: “This research highlights the urgent need for educators, parents, schools, policymakers, and politicians to listen to LGBTQ+ students and to learn from them. We must prioritise the safety and wellbeing of LGBTQ+ students who are seriously at risk. We need the government to integrate LGBTQ+ awareness and inclusion to teacher-training courses and implement outstanding actions under the LGBTI+ National Youth Strategy.”

“We can see the positive impact when LGBTQ+ students feel supported by staff and we are grateful to inspiring teachers and schools across Ireland who have worked on LGBTQ+ school safety and inclusivity for years and have saved lives through these interventions,” she continued. “Together, we can create a better future for LGBTQ+ young people at school – a future where they feel safe, equal, and valued.”

To learn more about the experiences of LGBTQ+ students in Irish schools, check out the full report here.

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