We need to eradicate bullying of LGBT+ kids in schools

by Rachel Williams | The Proud Trust
Monday, 15 October 2018 13:09 GMT

ARCHIVE PHOTO: An anti-bullying billboard hangs on a building in downtown Boston, Massachusetts March 3, 2011. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

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* Any views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Two in three trans children report being bullied at school and one in 10 have received death threats

* Rachel Williams is training manager at The Proud Trust, a charity that supports LGBT+ young people

Despite the wonderfully positive work that many schools are doing to stamp out discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans young people, bullying still goes on. It’s so important that we start the conversations early on in children’s lives – in primary schools – so that we prepare them for the world they actually live in. LGBT+ people are part of our world and part of our communities and it’s no longer acceptable to omit their existence from education institutions.  

While the evidence shows things are improving, there is still a huge amount of work to do to ensure that our LGBT+ pupils feel included and are able to be themselves. For trans pupils in particular, the picture still isn’t great. According to Stonewall’s School Report 2017, two in three trans children report being bullied at school, one in 10 have received death threats, and more than two in five have tried to take their own lives. Of course, the online world we live in also exposes young people to offensive content relating to LGBT+ people and often this isn’t stamped out by the social media companies – opening up a digital route to bullying too.

The only way to change things for the better and stamp out this form of bullying for good is to educate our kids as soon as we can. It’s incredibly important to incorporate and embed positive LGBT+ themes throughout schools, giving children the chance to start a conversation and ask questions, and provide a way for those teaching them to learn too.

While a growing number of schools are actively supporting their LGBT+ pupils, too many simply aren’t confident to do so. We have to change this by providing a safe way for teachers to ask the questions they need answers to, to better understand, help and support LGBT+ students and educate those around them.

Delivering training to those who subsequently teach is an enormous part of the task at hand and one the Proud Trust is striving towards with the Rainbow Flag Award, a quality assurance process for schools, with a focus on LGBT+ inclusion and visibility. Essentially, the Rainbow Flag Award seeks to equip a school workforce with the confidence, resources and skills, to start these conversations.

I would encourage schools to make a difference by focusing on the achievable changes they can make, by making LGBT+ lives and identities more visible in schools, and by developing robust strategies to combat bullying of gay, lesbian, bisexual or trans pupils.

Signing up to a scheme like the Rainbow Flag Award is a commitment to improve the lives of all the young people that attend that school or college, as well as the LGBT+ young people, those from LGBT+ families – not forgetting any LGBT+ staff members too.

The Rainbow Flag Award helps to identify the areas that you are good at, as well as where help is needed. The scheme offers ongoing monitoring, feedback and a variety of interventions, to enable those institutions to take a whole-school approach to LGBT+ inclusion.

If we get this education right, we can finally create truly inclusive spaces, and make bullying of LGBT+ children a thing of the past.