Homophobic bullying ‘rife’ in Northern Ireland schools

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Anti-gay bullying is a serious problem in Northern Ireland schools, a new report says.

The Rainbow Project report, Left out of the Equation, says gay, lesbian and bisexual pupils suffer severe inequality.

Problems include bullying, teachers failing to tackle homophobic abuse, poor sexual health information and schools’ failure to teach about stable and fulfilling relationships.

Young LGB people are left to “suffer in silence” because they fear coming out, the charity says.

The report says: “LGB young people are one of the most invisible, isolated and vulnerable groups in our society. Homophobic bullying is rife in schools across Northern Ireland and it continues, unchallenged, because school staff lack the capacity, confidence or will to tackle it.

“Many LGB young people experience severe emotional, verbal and physical abuse while they are at school and yet continue to suffer in silence because they do not want to ‘out’ themselves, because they believe that the school would look unfavourably upon them, or because they do not believe that the school will take any appropriate action.

It adds: “Although many young LGB people are coming out at an earlier age, many spend their time in school trying to conceal their sexual orientation from their parents, teachers, peers and even themselves.”

Rainbow Project education equality officer Gavin Boyd said: “This report shows that when it comes to education, young people who are lesbian, gay or bisexual are left out of the equation.

“They get severely bullied but frequently don’t tell anyone because they don’t believe their school will do anything about it. They hear homophobic slurs every day but teachers don’t intervene. They aren’t taught that they can have stable and fulfilling relationships. They aren’t taught how to gauge risk and protect themselves from mental and sexual ill-health. They are simply expected to suffer in silence.”

He added: “The education structures of Northern Ireland ensure that boards of governors can neglect their legal obligations due to the lack of enforcement and accountability mechanisms. Boards of governors are failing to safeguard and promote the welfare of their LGB pupils, contrary to their legal obligations.”