UK: Campaigners to research bullying against LGBT teachers

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

The Teacher Support Network has announced it will be conducting research into the harassment and bullying of LGBT teaching staff.

The organisation’s chief executive, Julian Stanley, has commented on a fictional storyline in the Channel 4 soap opera Hollyoaks, where a gay teacher is bullied by his students over his sexuality.

Hollyoaks character John Paul McQueen ends up being locked in a room at Hollyoaks High with a male escort, after being entrapped by two mischievous students.

Writing for SecEd, Mr Stanley said: “I am not a regular viewer of Hollyoaks, but this storyline has obviously gained my attention. Yet just how realistic is it? While it is doubtful that many students go to the dramatic lengths of hiring escorts, can teachers be the victim of homophobic bullying too?

“Back in 2005, a snapshop survey of 197 teachers found that 66% had experienced discrimination or harassment because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Of these, 83% said it had taken the form of homophobic harassment or discrimination; 71% had experienced this from pupils.

“The survey also found that only a quarter of schools had a code of conduct on homophobic, biphobic or transphobic behaviour, and in 65% of cases, the respondents felt that the policy was not properly enforced.”

He added: “Of the callers to the Teacher Support Network support line this year who have identified as LGBT, key issues have included not only emotional concerns such as anxiety, stress and depression, but also professional issues like allegations and capability procedures. Of course it is hard to say whether these issues are linked to sexuality, but there is cause for concern. “

Mr Stanley concluded: “Next year, we will be looking into researching the homophobic harassment and bullying of LGBT teaching staff, but in the meantime it is vital that any teacher experiencing this kind of abuse seeks appropriate support, whether it be through school policy, union assistance, our helplines, or by talking to a trusted colleague.”

Research published last month by Stonewall showed 99% of lesbian, gay and bisexual young people hear homophobic language from other classmates when at school.

Meanwhile, Ofsted, the official body for inspecting schools in England, has criticised a north London school for failing to deal sufficiently with homophobic and racist bullying.