What is homophobic bullying?
Homophobic bullying occurs when bullying is motivated by a prejudice against lesbian, gay or bisexual people. Pupils tell us that it is easier to get away with this type of insult because teachers are less likely to challenge it.
Why should schools tackle it?
- Schools have a legal duty. ‘Head teachers, with the advice and guidance of governors and assistance of staff, must identify and use measures to promote good behaviour, respect for others and prevent all forms of bullying’. EAI 2006 section 89
- The Equality Act 2010 includes a public services duty which applies to schools. This Act replaces all previous equalities legislation.
- It can wreck attainment. Seven out of ten young lesbian and gay people say it affects their work.
- Low self-esteem, including the increased likelihood of self-harm and the contemplation of suicide can be the result. Dominic Crouch, a Gloucester teenager jumped to his death in 2011 reminding us of other senseless deaths and lost young lives.
Who experiences homophobic bullying?
Young people who are lesbian, gay or bisexual (LGB).
Young people who are thought to be LGB
Young people who are ‘different’ in the way they act
Young people who have gay friends or family
Teachers who may or may not be LGB
Young boys whose voice has not broken yet
Young people experience homophobic bullying sometimes for no apparent reason, but it can damage their sense of self and cause them to question their identity.
Who does the bullying?
- Anyone, especially if they have not been told it is wrong
- Young people who hear ‘That’s so gay’ all around them, or other casual uses of words, insults and adjectives that could be hurtful to others.
- People who think being gay is “wrong”
- People who may be gay themselves, and are angry or anxious about that
- People who think gay people shouldn’t have the same rights as heterosexual people
- People who think gay parenting is wrong and pupils should be treated differently because they may have gay parents.
- People who insist it is only ‘banter’
- People who come across this language online and think it is OK
Student Tyler Clementi jumped to his death after his room mate maliciously secretly filmed and then uploaded scenes of him with a gay friend in his bedroom. Sadly this high profile case is not the only example of tragic outcomes from this type of prejudice driven bullying, leaving families devastated.
Pupils may leave school early to escape homophobic bullying thus losing out on their schooling. Others become depressed and even suicidal. Homophobic bullying escalates into hate crime with other deaths thought to be due to homophobia More
How to recognise homophobic bullying
This behaviour can be hard to identify as it is often secret, pupils are not keen to report it in case others assume they are gay.
It can take the form of :-
Verbal abuse – including rumour spreading
Physical abuse – hitting, punching, kicking, sexual assault and threatening behaviour
Cyberbullying – online or mobiles: rumours, hate filled video and picture messaging. Misuse of photos, threats, blackmail and social isolation.
Can it happen in primary schools?
Increasingly pupils aged 10-11 are reporting homophobic bullying is becoming widespread. Primary pupils may not all know what the words mean, but can use homophobic language against others as form of bullying because it is what they hear around them and it goes unchallenged. They are aware that it is always an insult. Pupils are aware of the changes of puberty approaching and attack anyone who seems different. Boys distance themselves from friendships with girls at about this age and may isolate boys they deem ‘girlie’. They may also bully a pupil who has gay parents/carers or family members.
How to respond to homophobic bullying
It is important that staff responses are in line with Ofsted guidelines, “swift, proportionate, discreet, influential and effective”.
Ensure pupils know that homophobic language is not acceptable and ensure homophobic bullying is explicitly mentioned in policies and procedures. Research shows that this is a vital step. If a pupil makes persistent remarks, they should be removed from the classroom and helped to understand the reasons their comments are unacceptable. If the problem persists, involve senior managers and apply sanctions. Consider inviting parents/carers to school to discuss the pupil’s attitude as it may stem from home. Remind them that in school everyone is respected and valued.
Don’t overlook girls.
Many people think about boys when they consider homophobic bullying, try not to overlook girls.
Be aware of your obligations under the Equality Act 2010.
List of resources