Majority of lesbian, gay or bisexual pupils bullied for their sexuality

The majority of lesbian, gay or bisexual students have been bullied at school because of their sexuality.  New research published by the charity Stonewall shows the effect of such bullying is often severe.  28 per cent of bullied pupils had attempted suicide, 61 per cent had self harmed, and nearly half showed signs indicating depression.  Bullying affects schoolwork and achievement, with four in ten bullied pupils missing school as a result and one in three changing future plans for education, including at worst, planning to leave school or abandon the aim of higher education.The report shows that adult leadership in the school makes a marked difference in how lesbian gay and bisexual pupils report their experience.  Schools which unequivocally state that bullying people for their sexuality is wrong, schools which do not tolerate demeaning language against such pupils, and schools which act quickly against incidences of homophobic bullying, have much less bullying, and significantly better outcomes.


Three quarters of lesbian, gay and bisexual pupils have been bullied in schools where bullying is not acted on quickly, as opposed to less than half for schools which do act quickly.  Pupils are twice as likely to say they feel ‘accepted’ in a school which has explicitly stated homophobic bullying is wrong.   Lesbian gay and bisexual pupils are three times more likely to say their school is ‘accepting’ where bullying is tackled quickly, more than twice as likely to be happy at school, and two and a half times more likely to have an adult at school they can talk to.


As a whole faith schools were found to do worse than others on these key issues of adult leadership.  Faith school pupils are more likely to report that teachers never challenge demeaning language (36 per cent against 26 per cent), and more likely to say that homophobic bullying is not acted on quickly (31 per cent against 24 per cent).   However, there was no discernable difference between private and state, boarding schools versus day schools, or schools in rural or urban areas.


Educators are often nervous about parental opposition, and the reaction of faith communities.  Stonewall’s Education for All Conference, 5th July 2012, gave examples of schools which had engaged successfully with  faith communities.  Religious and non religious parents show high levels of support for action against homophobic bullying, and families from religious communities are often less monolithic on the subject than anticipated.  The number of schools which explicitly condemn homophobic bullying has doubled since 2007 and the number of children reporting they have been bullied for their sexuality has declined from two thirds to 55 per cent.


Comment: Quakers as parents, teachers, governors, and councillors… and as pupils… are deeply embedded in the education system.  Our concern for education without fear or violence goes back to George Fox.  Many Friends will simply say “Well, we oppose all bullying” and of course all bullying is equally wrong.  But genuine peacemaking requires us to understand the differences.  All bullied children may feel demeaned, ashamed, guilty, depressed or sick.  A child bullied for their race or disability may not want to talk about it.  But however vicious racism is, black parents already know and accept that their child is black.  A child who is or may be lesbian gay or bisexual may simply not know who to talk to.  Their parents may be prejudiced and the teachings of their faith community hostile.  They may be frightened that revealing the bullying will lead to their rejection.  This is why the leadership in the school is so important.  Bullied pupils should know, that we know what works and that we will do it.

The School Report 2012 is based on research commissioned by Stonewall from theUniversityofCambridgeand 1600 pupils were surveyed.   Stonewall and several other charities provide excellent resources and advice.

This article appears in the Friend magazine of 27 July

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