This post is a way of helping to publicise the excellent materials that are produced by Stonewall to help school tackle homophobia. The website resources are superb: http://www.stonewall.org.uk/at_school/education_for_all/default.asp I’m also keen to seek out advice from others who have already been down this road with some success.
As these graphics from a Stonewall leaflet show, homophobia in schools is a very serious issue. But there are some simple steps schools can take. (Download the pdf here: Secondary cornerstone )
The ten point plan seems like an excellent path to follow:
And the second page:
At KEGS, we are planning to launch a campaign, primarily focusing on eliminating the pejorative use of ‘Gay’. This is one of Stonewall’s campaigns and they have excellent resources. We’ll be getting students to help plan and deliver the content and, in due course, will be providing information and guidance to staff and parents. It’s a subtle area. Unlike campaigns to tackle racism where certain racist terms are clearly unacceptable and easily identified, using ‘gay’ appropriately is more difficult. It’s really important to give the message that the term ‘gay’ is not taboo. In fact, used properly, it’s a term we should embrace. The challenge is to stop people using ‘gay’ in the context of homophobic bullying, directly or indirectly.
At KEGS, we have a good record of being a tolerant, happy schools for LGBT staff and students. However, we can’t be complacent and we know there are issues with types of ‘banter’ that are simply unacceptable. I also know from my own Year 8 SRE lessons profiled in this post, that students are increasingly likely to use the secret questions box to ask about the experiences of gay people, more and more often asking in a way that suggests that they are referring to themselves. Thanks to Stonewall, we’ve got some good resources to help take this further.
I’ve turned the workplace ‘One is Gay’ poster campaign into a looping powerpoint that I will use in assembly to launch this initiative after half-term. You can download it here:
These images, spanning a good cross-section of job-types, make a very powerful point. It’s perfectly normal to be gay; lots of different types of people are gay; there are likely to be gay people in every situation. I will also be painting a picture of the normality of people being gay in my life; if you have gay friends, gay members of your family and work with gay people, it’s just a fact of life. Most prejudice is based on ignorance and that is my place to start. The Stonewall message plays on this: homophobia is so deeply uncool in this day and age; as well as harming others, it’s actually embarrassing to say things are ‘gay’ if they’re not; it’s basically the badge of ignorance – and who wants that? This is the line we will take – but backed with appropriate sanctions. We’re not just asking politely; we are insisting.
Recent events in Uganda, Nigeria and Russia, where laws have been passed to strengthen prejudice against LGBT people in society and in law, provide a good backdrop for taking a stance against homophobia now, giving it added relevance. It’s clear that the persistent injustice and prejudice is all around us and schools are the best places to sow the seeds of change. That is another line I will take. Society has taken strides to tackle racism and sexism; those battles haven’t been won but homophobia is still rife across the world and that needs to change.
If you have a strong student-led process in your school, please let me know so I can share ideas with my student leaders. It’s not easy to stand forward as the champions of an anti-homophobia campaign in a school so any ideas you have from experience, please share.
UPDATE JUNE: I was thrilled to see this in my son’s school. They’re further down this road than we are which is great.
— Tom Sherrington (@headguruteacher) June 25, 2014