Mrs Heggs’ Year 9 English class have been working on the power of rhetoric. They have studied speeches from Caesar to Emma Watson, culminating in students writing their own. One of the students wrote this, which is so good we wanted to share it.
“I am here, before you today to discuss an issue which has not only affected me personally but also my friends and not only my friends but children and young people all over Britain: Homophobic (and LGBT-based) Bullying within schools. 45 percent of LGBT pupils – including 64 percent of trans pupils – are bullied for being LGBT in Britain’s schools. How can anyone look at those numbers and not be appalled? In a school of 1700, an estimated 8% of students identify as part of the LGBTQ community, in our hypothetical school that is 136 pupils, if the statistics are right, then 61 of those children are being bullied in some way. And that is rounding down. Now consider: 7% of students who are bullied commit suicide. 4 students. 4 people. 4 children. How can anyone look at those numbers and not be ashamed? I strongly believe that together we can fix this, we can fight this, if you just hear me out.
There are words being said in not just secondary schools, but primary schools; words that would not be appropriate to say in a speech to anyone. But I will anyway because it is shocking to know children as young as 5 are calling other children names such as “faggot”, “dyke” and “queer”. And to make matters worse, almost half of teachers who hear homophobic language being used admit to not stepping in or reporting this language every time they hear it. Maybe you do not know this, maybe you do not want to, but you are part of the problem. Anyone who allows bullying and harassment to occur is part of the problem.
I go to a brilliant school we have a Gay-Straight-Alliance, which – by the way – schools in the UK and America legally must set up if one is requested, Our GSA is called HERO (Helping Educate Regarding Orientation) and my school has LGBTQ+ ambassadors who are staff and sixth formers and we have a policy against any sort of discrimination among students or staff. However, only half of secondary schools in the UK have a similar policy in place that specifically condemns discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. My school is unfortunately not common, in fact just the fact that we had HERO has gotten us in local news and “inspired other schools in the area” this is of course brilliant but it shouldn’t need to be something momentous when a school makes an effort to be inclusive. It should be commonplace!
So, what can I do about it? We should not ask this. We should ask what we can do about it? This needs to be a collective effort. But do you know what we can do? Educate! It might surprise you to know that students who are openly LGBT are actually bullied 23% less than people who are just suspected of being LGBT. This sounds odd but shows that the people who are bullying are doing it more out of ignorance than an actual hatred for the LGBT community. Only 17% of teaching staff in Britain have had any form of training about teaching LGBT matters. I implore you: The teachers, the parents, the adults here ask for this training. If that does not work demand this training. Fewer than one in five teachers say their school library stocks LGBT fiction and non-fiction, and a third of schools say they have not taught about LGBT topics in the classroom and yet these schools have the audacity to say they provide a full education, that they are inclusive or do not discriminate.
“Education’s purpose is to replace an empty mind with an open one” this is a quote from Malcolm Forbes. Keep this in mind when teaching students. If every teacher in Britain could teach acceptance and advocate against homophobic bullying, if every teacher opened the mind of just one student, then there would be 506,400 less people in the world who allow children to be denied a tolerant education. I strongly believe that together we can fix this, we can fight this, and education is the way forward.
Thank you.”Click here to return to the current newsletter