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It's Time for Scotland's Politicians to Get Serious About Tackling Homophobic Bullying in Our Schools

19/02/2016 17:36 GMT | Updated 19/02/2017 10:12 GMT

Nearly 16 years ago the Scottish Parliament voted to abolish Section 28. This horrible piece of legislation blocked teachers from discussing same-sex relationships, leaving many young people utterly isolated. The damage done then is still felt by many today.

Scrapping Section 28 was a progressive and bold move so early on in the life of the Scottish Parliament. It sent a strong message and I remember the real sense of hope many of us felt at the time, that perhaps, school would be different for a new generation.

So why, in 2016, has so little changed for young people in our schools?

In less than 100 days Scottish voters will take to the polls to have their say on who will take the reins of the next Scottish Government. Scotland is a changing country, and significant steps have been taken in ensuring that lesbian, gay, bi and trans (LGBT) people have the same rights and responsibilities that others take for granted. But there's still a tremendous amount to do before all LGBT people are truly equal in Scotland.

Our research shows that 88% of secondary and 39% of primary school staff say that pupils in their school have experienced homophobic bullying, harassment or name calling. Despite this, just 16% of teaching staff have received training on tackling homophobic, biphobic and transphobic (HBT) bullying in schools. This is just not good enough. And will not help the fact that one in four LGB people have attempted suicide, and over half have deliberately self-harmed.

Too many young people still face a daily gauntlet of fear in the classroom and playground simply because of who they are. And so few teachers have the confidence to support them.

Last year, Stonewall Scotland began rolling out our own teacher training programme. So far we've trained over 100 teachers across Scotland to enable them to go back into their schools and create real change. But this is not Stonewall Scotland's responsibility alone.

Last summer MSPs from all parties, including all party leaders, signed our No Bystanders pledge. We welcome this support, and commitment to call out bullying and discriminatory language when it is seen or heard. But now we must see action, and that's why we're calling on all parties in this election to make specific commitments to tackling HBT bullying in schools.

We are calling for the next Scottish Government to commit funding for teacher training around HBT bullying, providing inclusive and age-appropriate information on sex and relationships. We want a commitment to review Scottish Government guidance on approaches to bullying, and resources on how to evaluate that guidance. After all, what use is guidance if it's not being used, or if teachers aren't confident in dealing with the issues it covers?

Stonewall Scotland is also calling for improved data collection around the experiences of LGBT young people at school, and within Local Authorities to record and report instances of HBT bullying, similar to existing practice around race-based bullying.

Scotland's come a long way for LGBT equality, but we cannot be complacent.

Whichever party forms the next Scottish Government needs to be bold and do more.

It's time for all our politicians to make a commitment to tackling HBT bullying in our schools, so that all our LGBT young people in Scotland will be accepted without exception.

You can learn more and visit Stonewall Scotland's website at: www.stonewallscotland.org.uk