Homophobia can only be ended through school

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Ben Summerskill, chief executive of gay charity Stonewall outlines the importance of schools in the fight against homophobia

At Stonewall we’ve just launched a major national survey to find out exactly what’s happening to young gay people in our schools.

Hundreds of pupils have already visited www.speakoutonline.org.uk to reveal their experiences of anti-gay bullying.

We hope the survey will finally put to rest the claim we’ve heard so often from headteachers who say: ‘That sort of thing might have happened once, but not any more.’

Homophobic bullying certainly is still happening in schools.

Not long ago, we came across a young girl of 14 who, after she advised one of her classmates she might be a lesbian, has been required to sit outside the changing room until all the ‘normal’ girls have changed.

I met a boy of 16 whose school’s response to homophobic bullying was to provide him with his own security guard.

We were all reminded of the dangers of a nation that doesn’t tackle homophobia in schools last year when Jodi Dobrowski was kicked to death on Clapham Common in south London. Here was a 24 year old young man, too embarrassed even to visit a gay bar. He was in a city widely regarded as one of the most tolerant in this country. Yet he was kicked to death in the middle of the night to the chanting of homophobic abuse.

At Stonewall, we have a dream of a Britain where one day no human life will be disfigured by prejudice and hatred and fear and where one day every single child will grow up to secure every ounce of their potential.

But we won’t see that Britain until we finally eradicate homophobia from our schools.

This article first appeared in the August issue of The Pink News which is out now