Two out of every five victims of school homophobic bullying contemplate suicide, says survey


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The Independent Online

Two out of every five victims of homophobic bullying at school attempt or contemplate suicide, a report released today reveals.

A survey of 1,600 gay, lesbian and bisexual young people aged between 11 and 19 showed that more than half had suffered from homophobic bullying while at school.

As a result, many who had been predicted to get three straight A grades at A-level give up school after completing their GCSEs.

The figures on suicide attempts were described by Stephen Twigg, Labour’s education spokesman, as “a very, very shocking statistic”.

“It is a compelling reminder that the task before us (in eradicating prejudice) in still enormous,” he added.

The survey, carried out for Stonewall - the pro-gay pressure group - by researchers at Cambridge University, urges the Government to adopt a series of measures to combat homophobia in schools.

In particular, it argues that the national curriculum should reflect the lives of lesbian, gay and bisexual people in subject areas,

One 17-year-old, Rachel, told researchers:  “In English we only talked about gay issues in relation to Oscar Wilde.”

However. she added: “Our school’s internet service provider actively blocks most pages about Oscar Wilde and in particular his Wikipedia page, which has details of his sexuality.  That seems to be the only reason the pages are blocked.”

Other measures advocated in the report include insisting upon adequate training for teachers in how to tackle homophobic bullying - as is the case with tackling racism.

Figures in the report show 95 per cent of schools say bullying because of ethnicity is wrong and 90 per cent because of disability.  However, on homophobic bullying, the figure drops to just 50 per cent. In faith schools, it is even lower - 37 per cent.

The report also says school nurses should be trained to make it clear that young people can speak to them in confidence about their sexual orientation - in a bid to combat potential suicides.

It says that 96 per cent of gay pupils hear derogatory terms like “poof” and “lezza” used in the the playground - with teachers often turning a deaf ear to such comments.

In addition, 99 per cent have heard fellow pupils using the word “gay” in a derogatory sense - such as “that’s so gay” and “you’re so gay” (meaning “bad”).

However, the findings are an improvement on a similar survey carried out five years ago when 65 per cent said they were bullied as opposed to 55 per cent. In addition, the percentage of schools openly saying homophobic bullying is wrong has doubled to 50 per cent.

Mr Twigg said schools and colleges had made “real progress” in recent years compared to when he was at secondary school in the 1980s.

“I realised I was gay by the time I was 14,” he said. “During the subsequent four years I was at school there was only one friend I could tell.  There was no way I could come out openly.”

However, when returning to his former school - Southgate comprehensive in north London - during an election campaign years later, he was pleased to see openly gay and lesbian students turning up to question candidates about their policies.