As anti-bullying week continues in the UK, Equalities minister Jo Swinson has instigated a new initiative to help remove homophobic, transphobic and biphobic bullying from secondary schools.
The initiative, announced by the government today, will require a full understanding of what school measures are being taken in order to assess the current situation before progressing.
Although the Independent reported that campaigners have found over forty schools in the UK who remain ambiguous or do not wish to “promote” homosexuality to their students, anti-bullying week has also had an overwhelming show of support from school teens embracing fellow LGBT students.
Gay Star News reported their visit to a school in Manchester where they were “told a story of an out and proud gay sixth-former who was voted prom king.” Manchester was also home to a 20,000 strong protest against Section 28 over ten years ago.
Section 28 stated that a local authority “shall not intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality” or “promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship.”
The law was introduced under Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government in 1988 and was a strongly opposed by the Labour party, Liberal Democrats and Green Party. November 18 marked the ten-year anniversary of Section 28’s repeal.
Swinson told Pink News, “if you look at [the]statistics that more than half of LGBT pupils are experiencing homophobic bullying, and larger percentages are aware of ‘gay’ being used as a term of abuse, and seeing homophobic bullying going on. Also, worryingly only three in ten think their schools actually have got proper processes and are dealing with it properly.”
She added, when speaking of the initiative’s agenda, “So that is the gap we are trying to bridge really, and so the first step is to make sure we gather the evidence.”
The plan will include updated advice and guidance as well as giving schools more legal power to tackle cyber-bullying and bad behavior.
The announcement made today follows the Church of England’s vow to introduce anti-homophobic campaigns; LGBT rights group Stonewall has also pledged to tackle the derogatory use of the word “gay.”
The head of youth hotline ChildLine, Sue Minto, also told Pink News, “Homophobic bullying is becoming a huge problem with children contacting ChildLine to say they have been driven to despair, developing eating disorders, harming themselves and even contemplating suicide… Some of those who call say they have had no support from teachers.”