Two thirds of young LGBT+ people in Northern Ireland feel unwelcome in schools, a newly published piece of research reveals.
Additionally, nearly half of LGBT+ youth have experienced homophobic bullying or have been bullied because of their gender identity.
These findings corroborate those of the recent BeLonG To and GCN Budding Burning Issues survey from this year’s Youth Issue of GCN. In this survey, it was discovered that 70% of LGBT+ youth in the Republic of Ireland felt that schools were not safe places for them.
The Northern Ireland research was completed in April 2016, however it has only just been disclosed by the Department of Education, seventeen months later.
The delay in publishing the paper was due to the lack of an Education Minister being in place, the department said.
“As the research was commissioned by a minister it was the department’s original view that the publication of the research should be cleared by a minister,” the Department of Education said.
It was only in light of enquiries regarding the outcome of the research that they elected to release the research.
The research was comprised from responses from 532 young LGBT+ people and was commissioned by the Department of Education, costing nearly £30,000, reports the BBC.
The report highlighted negative experiences of LGBT+ young people in schools which include lack of LGBT+ issues on the school curriculum, sexual health education that was unhelpful, being made to feel uncomfortable by teachers and unsatisfactory responses to the reporting of bullying from the administration.
Bullying was most frequently experienced in the form of name-calling but social isolation and physical violence were other manifestations of the abuse.
“There may be scope to identify approaches which would help to encourage a more progressive and welcoming environment for young LGBT people,” the report reads.
Unfortunately, the report stopped short of clarifying what tactics could be introduced as part of a strategy to help LGBT+ people feel more welcome in schools.
This demonstrates institutional anti-LGBT bias, at all levels of education in Northern Ireland, particularly within the Department of Education itself
The director of Northern Ireland LGBT+ support group Rainbow Project, John O’Doherty, declared that the Department of Education was failing to “promote equality of opportunity” for young LGBT+ people.
“This demonstrates institutional anti-LGBT bias, at all levels of education in Northern Ireland, particularly within the Department of Education itself, directly breaching its statutory duty to promote equality of opportunity for LGBT people,” O’Doherty said.
“What we need to hear from the Department of Education, immediately, is what they will do to ensure that homophobic and transphobic, discrimination ends in every school, in every sector, across Northern Ireland.”
The Department of Education responded, indicating that it is up to each school to have in place a written policy on how relationship and sexuality education is delivered.
“A school’s policy should be subject to consultation with parents and endorsed by a school’s board of governors,” the department said.
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