The Minister for Education and Skills, Ruairí Quinn, T.D., today (Wednesday 20th February) opened a conference on homophobic and transphobic bullying, in association with Ireland’s presidency of the EU Council. Held by the European region of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA- Europe), it is examining the issue of homophobic and transphobic bullying in schools across the EU.
It is the first time an education event aimed at policy-makers and held in association with an EU Presidency term has actively addressed lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues.
Creating safer and more inclusive schools for LGBT youth is a rising priority across Europe. It is also a key priority of the Government and forms a core part of the recent Action Plan on Bullying launched by Minister Quinn last month.
Teachers and representatives from UNESCO, the Council of Europe, the European Commission Directorate General for Education and Culture, NGOs and trade unions gathered to discuss the role that policy makers, NGOs, inspectors and teachers can play in combatting homophobic and transphobic bullying.
Minister Quinn - It is clear that education can play a key role in supporting these students, and in tackling the underlying prejudices which can lead to homophobic and transphobic bullying.
Episodes of such bullying occur in different education settings. They can lead to LGBT students becoming estranged from supports, feeling isolated, underachieving in education, dropping out of school, or experiencing mental ill-health.
Speaking at the event in Dublin, Minister Quinn said, “Unfortunately, LGBT learners may be experiencing isolation, fear, marginalisation and lack of acceptance from their peers and others as a result of their sexuality or perceived sexuality.
“It is clear that education can play a key role in supporting these students, and in tackling the underlying prejudices which can lead to homophobic and transphobic bullying. The Action Plan on Bullying, which I recently launched, specifically addresses these issues and includes several concrete proposals to tackle them.”
These measures include Department of Education and Skills’ support for Stand Up! Awareness Week Against Homophobic Bullying, organised by BeLonG To Youth Services. Training and resources on tackling homophobic bullying for school Boards of Management and parents are being developed, as well as guidelines for policy makers and agencies working in the schools sector.