Homophobia in the Classroom
Homosexuality is a sexual orientation characterised by an attraction to members of one’s own sex. Gay men, for example, are attracted to men and lesbians are attracted to women. Many people are uncertain of their sexual orientations until they are adults, which makes the teen years a confusing and often frustrating time. Though school is meant to be a safe place for all, some teens are subjected to homophobia in the classroom. Both teachers and students can be responsible for homophobia, and bullying can take place whether an individual has come out or is simply suspected of a particular sexual orientation. Below are some suggestions for coping with homophobia in the classroom.
Understanding HomophobiaHomophobia is the fear or hatred of homosexuals and homosexuality. Individuals who are homophobic fear or hate the fact that others are sexually attracted to members of their own sex. This fear can lead to behaviour that discriminates against homosexuals and consequently advantages heterosexuals. Such discrimination based on sexual orientation is illegal under The Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007. This Act includes educational establishments, local education authorities and education authorities.
Homophobic Bullying By Other PupilsHomophobic bullying by other pupils can take many forms, from hurtful comments to physical attacks. In order to stop such bullying, students should first familiarise themselves with their school’s anti-bullying policy. Students should also record instances of bullying in a diary, including what happened and who was involved, and tell a trusted adult about what is happening.
Any proof of bullying, such as defaced property or hurtful electronic communications, should be saved but online abuse (such as via text messages, emails, instant messages, websites or ‘blogs) should not be responded to. When ready, the student and his or her parents should confront the school and make a formal complaint. While the bullying is being investigated the student should try to stay around others as bullies often begin their activities when their victim is alone. If a student is fearful for his or her personal safety then a self-defence class could be a good idea. However, no student should be encouraged to stand up to a bully alone and those who are being bullied should guard against becoming a bully themselves. Unfortunately some victims of bullying become so frustrated with the way they are being treated that they take it out on someone else, but this just perpetuates a cycle of bullying and hurts more people.