Irish minister Ruairi Quinn launches guidelines on safe and supportive schools for lesbian and gay students

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

Irish Labour Minister for Education and Skills, Ruairi Quinn, today launches the new publication Guidelines for Principals on Including Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Students in School Policies.

Mr Quinn said, “The 21st century school should be one that is safe and supportive of all students, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. I am considering the establishment of a working group comprising all the relevant sections of my department, along with the NGOs involved in this area and the education partners, to help draft a roadmap towards the elimination of homophobic bullying from our schools.”

Clive Byrne, director of the National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals (NAPD), who jointly developed the Guidelines with GLEN and the Department of Education and Skills said: “Respect and tolerance must be at the heart of every school. NAPD believes strongly that the school leader sets the tone and must preside over a school climate which recognises and encourages tolerance and diversity and is both a happy and inclusive environment where students can thrive.”

Research in Ireland has consistently shown that young students who are or are perceived to be lesbian or gay experience significant levels of homophobic abuse in schools. Research also shows that four out of five teachers are aware of the problem and say that lack of policy hinders them in tackling the issue.

“Homophobic bullying can significantly impact on the educational and life chances of a young LGBT person, and unchecked, it has an impact on all students who learn the high price of being different”, said Sandra Irwin-Gowran, director of education policy at GLEN.

This Guide is one of many methods of support developed for schools by the Department of Education and GLEN, which is also working with the NAPD, BeLongTo, the national organisation for LGBT youth, and the Equality Authority on pilot training initiatives on how schools approach their support methods toward young LGBT students.