Homophobic language in Britain’s schools is being tackled head-on by a leading gay rights charity.
Stonewall’s campaign comes in response to research which shows that 99 per cent of lesbian, gay and bisexual young people hear phrases such as “that’s so gay” or “you’re so gay” in school.
The study, supported by online parent forum Mumsnet, revealed 84 per cent of young people feel distressed when they hear language of that nature.
Polling by Mumsnet also shows that 68% of parents don’t know if their children’s school has policies to tackle homophobic language.
The new campaign uses new posters and guidance to address the misuse of the word gay and is fronted by the singer Will Young.
Posters, sent to schools across Britain, state clearly: “Gay. Let’s Get the Meaning Straight”.
The posters are accompanied by new guidance for both pupils and teachers to enable them to challenge the derogatory use of the word gay.
Young, who is supporting Stonewall’s Anti-Bullying Week campaign, said: “The word ‘gay’ is currently used as one of the worst insults by young people of all ages in Britain’s schools.
“It’s clear from the shocking levels of self-harm and suicide among gay young people that we’re failing an entire generation. It’s time to take a stand and put a stop to this deeply damaging use of homophobic language.”
Shaun Dellenty, an-openly gay deputy head teacher at a south London primary school, told HuffPost UK: "I am heartened to hear that Stonewall are launching this campaign.
"As the Stonewall School Report 2012 clearly demonstrated, homophobia and language remains endemic in our schools. This is due to a huge training deficit in schools spanning decades, fear, misconception and sadly in some cases downright prejudice. We must not forget either the pernicious piece of legislation that was Section 28."
He told us: "In my own training and schools teachers explore and define the use of the word gay in its original use as 'carefree' or 'happy' and children explore using it both verbally and in writing.
"Pupils then explore the development of the word gay to mean same sex love and again respectful, dignified discussion is held around this use too. It is made clear that both these uses are appropriate to use in school when used correctly and in context."
Stonewall’s Deputy Chief Executive Ruth Hunt said: “We know that many people who casually use the term ‘that’s so gay’ don’t intentionally mean to be offensive.
“But the reality is that their words cause offence and distress. That’s why we’re launching this flagship campaign so teachers and parents have the resources to tackle the problem head on. We want every young person, teacher and parent in Britain to challenge this language and change the culture of our schools.”
Justine Roberts, Founder of campaign partners Mumsnet, said: “We should all be challenging our children's use of homophobic language and simply shouldn't tolerate phrases like that's so gay’ which are in everyday use in school playgrounds. Parents, working with schools, really can stamp out this type of language which is demeaning, hurtful and offensive to so many.”
Stonewall is distributing copies of the new posters and guidance to 2,500 secondary schools - half of all secondary schools in Britain.
Mumsnet and Stonewall are also asking individuals to get involved by writing to or tweeting their local schools as well as challenging their own children’s use of homophobic language.
Join the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #GetOverIt