Tag Archives: Schools

The UK’s School LGBT Bullying Projects Axed by Government

The UK’s government-backed projects tackling bullying of LGBT students in England’s schools has had its funding pulled.

The decision came despite an earlier pledge to continue investing in school programmes targeting homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying.

The Government Equalities Office had funded several well-received programmes costing at least £4m, which specifically targeted LGBT bullying, since 2014. Many had been extended and given further government support.

Initially called The Homophobic, Biphobic and Transphobic Challenge Fund, the government programme was not compulsory for schools, but it allowed teachers, staff and students to receive free training and workshops.

Providers of workshops, as well as parents, students and teachers, had been expecting the funding to continue.

The government acknowledges the serious impact anti-LGBT bullying can have on educational attainment, absence levels, emotional wellbeing and mental health.

But they say the funding was always due to come to an end.

The Government Equalities Office said: “The anti-bullying grant fund, which provided 2,250 schools across the country with materials and training, was always due to end in March 2020.”

However, this is the first time that the funding has not been extended since it was originally announced in October 2014 by the then Minister for Women and Equalities, Nicky Morgan.

There was shock among providers of workshops, as well as parents, students and teachers who had expecting the funding to continue.

One provider of LGBT inclusion workshops, who wanted to remain anonymous as they feared that speaking out would jeopardise any future possible funding, said schools and programme providers had been expecting a further extension.

Her organisation was waiting for another funding announcement at the beginning of November, inviting new applications for grants.

She said she felt “sick” that schools would not be able to continue their work, and claimed her organisation had been “ignored” and “shut out” by the government, even though its programmes were well-received.

“This decision will only serve to further marginalise LGBT young people,” said Tulip Siddiq MP, shadow minister for children and early years.

“The government itself has admitted that young people who identify as LGBT have higher risk of bullying and long-term harm to their education, health and wellbeing, so to be pulling away financial support from those fighting this abuse is especially callous.”

The equalities charity Stonewall noted that the news had emerged during anti-bullying week, and a day after the anniversary of the repeal of section 28, a notorious clause in the Local Government Act 1988 that banned local authorities from “promoting homosexuality”.

Nancy Kelley, the chief executive of Stonewall, said that young LGBTQ+ people still face significant problems in England’s schools and the organisation’s 2017 School Report had revealed that nearly half of LGBTQ+ pupils (45%) were still bullied for being themselves.

“We know LGBT people are disproportionately affected by poor mental health, and some of this is because of the way they were treated at school,” she added. “This is why it’s crucial this government invests money in funding anti-LGBT bullying programmes across England. We can’t leave students to suffer in silence.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “Bullying is never acceptable in any form, and we must all take a stand against bullying to create a safe place for all children in the classroom and online.

“Our new relationships, sex and health education (RSHE) guidance and training resources will give schools the confidence to construct a curriculum that reflects diversity of views and backgrounds, whilst fostering respect for others and the understanding of healthy relationships.”

Nevertheless, the release of messages to mark anti-bullying week and a video in which the education secretary, Gavin Williamson, spoke about the issue were met with criticism by others who took issue with the ending of the LGBTQ+ funding.

The Conservative party’s 2019 manifesto for government included a pledge to continue to help teachers tackle bullying, including homophobic bullying. Civil servants were evaluating the grant fund programme “to increase our evidence base on what works in schools,” according to the Government Equalities Office.

Metro, a charity that delivered training in schools and colleges under the fund, tweeted that its work to tackle homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying funded was “hugely impactful” but added that continued funding was needed.

Number Of Children Self-Harming Grows, As Mental Health Problems Amongst Students Rise

A newly-published survey of head teachers says the number of children are self-harming or harbouring suicidal thoughts is growing, because mental health problems amongst pupils are rising.

A survey of 338 schools in the UK, revealed 55% of staff said they had experienced a large increase in cases of anxiety and stress – while more than 40% reported a big increase in cyber-bullying.

The survey, conducted jointly by the Association of School and College Leaders – which represents secondary school heads – and the National Children’s Bureau – also reported that nearly eight out of 10 schools (nearly 80%) reported an increase in the number of pupils self-harming or having suicidal thoughts.

At the same time as mental health problems were increasing, nearly two-thirds of schools (65%) reported that it was becoming more difficult to access mental health care from local services.

Malcolm Trobe, acting general secretary of ASCL, reported

Our survey shows a serious gap in mental health services beyond the school gates. The fact is children today face an extraordinary range of pressures.  They live in a world of enormously high expectations, where new technologies present totally new challenges such as  cyber-bullying. There has seldom been a time when specialist mental health care is so badly needed and yet it often appears to be the poor relation of the health service.

Early intervention is essential before problems become entrenched and start to increase in severity. These services are a vital lifeline that many young people cannot do without.”

The survey’s findings were supported this week by mental health campaigners with Lucie Russell, director of campaign at the mental health charity Young Minds saying:

We shouldn’t underestimate the huge amount of pressure young people today face: family breakdown, stress at school, body image issues, early sexualisation, 24/7 online networking, bullying on and offline and uncertainty about the future after school are all piling on the stress.

To make matters worse when young people are struggling it can be extremely difficult for them to get the support they need.”

She added that services were ”a postcode lottery with unacceptably long waiting times in many areas.“

Anna Feuchtwang, chief executive of the NCB, added:

It is alarming that teachers are seeing ever-growing numbers of children self-harming or having suicidal thoughts.  For these young people, and many others like them, their psychological states are almost too much to bear.

While schools are doing their best to help, in cases where children are in acute need they require specialist mental health services to step in and provide support. Unfortunately, teachers say that limited capacity in these services often makes referrals very difficult.”

The survey’s evidence comes on top of concerns expressed by the Commons select committee of health that many schools were finding the threshold for triggering action to help pupils was “unreasonably high” .

The results of the survey support concerns that there are worryingly high levels of mental health and well-being issues among young people and that the prevalence of  these issues has increased during the past five years. It is also noted that the prevalence of the relatively new phenomenon of cyber-bullying has significantly increased over that time.”

Universities And Schools In America Seeking LGBT Rights Exemptions Will Now Be Named

After some schools and universities in America sought specifically for an Education Act exemptions, so that they can continue discriminating against LGBTs, the federal government has announced that it will publish details of each exemption online in a move to hopefully create greater transparency.

Late last year it emerged that a number of colleges and universities that receive federal funds have applied for and obtained permission from the federal government in order to obtain exceptions to Title IX of the Education Act. The law, which came into force in 1972, means that schools using taxpayer money cannot engage in sex-based discrimination. The Obama administration maintains that this also protects LGBT students, much to the uproar of religious schools.

However, when that law was passed, Congress provided a loophole that so that religious schools could be exempt from Title IX based on their religious ethos. It became public knowledge last year that since the Obama administration announced its determination that Title IX covers LGBT students, a number of religious schools had applied for such exemptions. Estimates say that, as of December 2015, around 60 schools had been given waivers under the Obama administration.
Advocacy groups like the Human Rights Campaign and lawmakers such as Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) said they were concerned that religious freedom exemptions were being used to perpetuate anti-LGBT discrimination.

Senator Wyden and other lawmakers subsequently wrote a letter to the Department of Education requesting that there be more transparency in the process so that, at the very least, the general public could know which colleges and universities were using these exemptions.

The Department of Education has now issued a response.

Buzzfeed reports that Assistant Secretary Catherine Lhamon, in comments made Wednesday January 20, has agreed to that call for transparency:

I appreciate your suggestion the we provide more transparency about the religious exemption requests received and [the department’s] responses. I agree.”

Lhamon added that both applications for the waivers and the government’s replies will be posted online “sometime in coming months” as part of the department’s broader push to increase transparency.

To be clear, this information was technically already open to the public but it wasn’t easily accessible. Now, the Department has said it will post the information in a way that is searchable so that the public can understand which schools are getting these exemptions and how the government has answered those calls.

The Human Rights Campaign has praised the move.

HRC President Chad Griffin, added

We have been alarmed by the growing trend of schools quietly seeking the right to discriminate against LGBT students, and not disclosing that information publicly. We are encouraged that the Department of Education is answering our call for greater transparency to help ensure no student unknowingly enrolls in a school that intends to discriminate against them.

We believe that religious liberty is a bedrock principle of our nation, however, faith should never be used as a guise for discrimination.”

However, this doesn’t fully answer the issue, namely why educational institutions receiving public money are being allowed to discriminate in the first place.

Unfortunately, to change that would require a change in the law and it is highly unlikely that the Republican dominated House or the stalemate in the Senate could muster enough consensus to do so. This compounds the litany of anti-LGBT student bills that are sweeping the country, and ones that particularly focus on trans students and their access to sports teams and changing and bathroom facilities.

Nevertheless, identifying the schools that are exploiting religious freedom protections to discriminate is a much needed step toward tackling this issue and for that reason the Department’s response is welcome.

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