'˜Urgent action required' over bullying of LGBT pupils

The Department for Education has been called upon to act after new research revealed almost half of LGBT pupils here have been bullied.

Saturday, 16th September 2017, 1:20 pm
Updated Saturday, 16th September 2017, 2:22 pm
The Department has been urged to take action over the findings.

Sinn Féin Foyle MLA Karen Mullan, the party’s education spokesperson, said it was disappointing that the study, commissioned by then Minister John O’Dowd in 2015 and delivered to the department over a year ago, was only surfacing now.

Ms Mullan said: “A lot of time has been lost and immediate steps are now required to begin addressing the issues identified in this report. For example, nearly two-thirds of LGBT young people said they do not feel welcomed or valued in their post-primary school while almost half had experienced bullying as a result of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

“That can not be tolerated and steps should be taken to ensure Relationships and Sexual Education in post primary schools effectively addresses sexuality, gender identity and same sex relationships.

“We will be engaging with the Department Of Education and the Education Authority on this matter.”

Ms Mullan said that the Department must also ensure the anti-bullying legislation taken forward by John O’Dowd is enacted in order to protect all children from all forms of bullying.

“No child should be left behind,” she said. “We will continue to engage with all relevant parties to ensure that the legislation is fully implemented and to identify improvements.”

SDLP Education spokesperson Colin McGrath meanwhile will also the raise the treatment of LGBT pupils with the Department of Education Permanent Secretary in light of the report.

He said: “The result of this report are shocking but not surprising.

“This is no isolated problem. It is endemic and demands urgent action.

“Our schools should be open, welcoming and nurturing. No young person should go to school feeling threatened or unhappy.

“I will be meeting with the Permanent Secretary of the Department of Education on Monday to discuss what action is being taken to address this significant problem.”

Chair of SDLP LGBT+ Fergal McFerran added:

“Young people face a tough enough time growing up. Growing up as LGBT+ in Northern Ireland, with the pressure of accepting who you are, living in a society where you’re treated as lesser than others and facing state sponsored discrimination is a huge challenge for any young person.

“The findings of this report reflect what many of us have known for a long time.

“Schools must do more to support LGBT+ pupils, tackle discrimination and teach all pupils about LGBT rights.”