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Background Info

The Scottish education system is failing LGBTI+ youth and reform is required. Currently - individual institutions can opt out of progressive, inclusive education programmes, and many do - therefore, messages of support and positivity are not reaching LGBTI+ youth in our society, and efforts to tackle homo/bi/transphobia in schools is largely failing. 

Thus, I am calling for the Scottish Government to introduce a statutory education programme that builds on current framework and pays attention to topics and issues relating to LGBTI+ pupils (see examples below).

There are a wide array of LGBTI+ organisations and groups that are supportive of this petition, and have the capability to contribute to the formation of such a programme - I propose that, should this be taken further, the Government utilise these resources and co-operate with such groups when addressing this issue. We would expect such a programme to be prescriptive, reviewed and monitored to ensure that it is effectively enforced.

Some examples of areas to address include:

• Homophobia, biphobia, transphobia.
• A more inclusive and diverse teaching of family types: incl. same-sex relationships.
• The teaching of the Equal Rights Movement; from Stonewall, the Gay Liberation Movement, ACT UP et cetera to the contemporary situation - both globally and nationally.
• Sexualities and sexual orientation, with focus on self-acceptance and support.
• Transgenderism, gender identity.
• A more realistic, comprehensive Sexual Health Education: incl. LGBT+ sexual health issues.

Section 28 was repealed fifteen years ago, yet our educational institutions are still not offering comprehensively inclusive teaching. Homo/bi/transphobia is a massive issue in our schools, and I believe that this can only be targeted and addressed through a legislative change to the education system - it is unproductive to attempt to tackle homo/bi/transphobia in schools, if the institutions can choose not to teach about it. By refusing to acknowledge or teach LGBTI+ issues, what such institutions are essentially doing is candidly ostracising LGBTI+ pupils.

As a homosexual and recent student of a Roman Catholic secondary school, I have first hand knowledge of this: when I was at my lowest point in my struggle with self acceptance, there was no support available. Homophobic language was rampant in the hallways yet it was never addressed. I had teachers discuss the “abomination” that is homosexuality. Whilst we were all made aware that there was zero tolerance for discrimination or abuse on the grounds of gender, race or religion - no one ever mentioned sexual orientation. Homophobia was a phrase that was avoided. Indeed, whilst 69.1% of LGBT+ young people experience direct homophobic bullying in our schools (2), only 12% of schools have assemblies that address homophobic bullying - and 48% of LGBT+ pupils claim that they are never taught about homophobia in their lessons. (1)  Further to the above;

• 99% of LGBT+ pupils in Scotland hear phrases such as "that's so gay", and 97% hear derogatory remarks such as "poof" in their schools (1)
• 54% of LGBT+ pupils in Scotland who have experienced direct homophobic bullying are deliberately, regularly self harming (1)
• 26% (1 in 4) of LGBT+ pupils in Scotland who have experienced direct homophobic bullying have attempted suicide (1)
• 76.9% of transgender pupils had experienced homophobic, biphobic or transphobic bullying in school (2)
• 54% of LGBT+ pupils in Scotland do not feel part of their school communities (1)
• 71% of LGBT+ pupils in Scotland regularly skip school (1)
• 49% of LGBT+ pupils in Scotland do not feel that they are achieving their best at school (1)
  53% of LGBT+ pupils in Scotland do not feel that there is an adult at school whom they can openly talk to about their sexual orientation (1)

This is a social epidemic that is plaguing our schools and claiming the confidence, esteem and mental wellbeing of a section of our country's youth. It is, fundamentally, a humanitarian problem. Ignorance is perpetuation: by failing to address the issue or opting out of programmes that attempt to, our schools are allowing it to grow. I believe that the only way to remedy this, is to introduce a statutory education programme that is fully inclusive and offers both broad, comprehensive teaching on real life issues and topics relating to the LGBTI+ community, and support to LGBTI+ pupils who are struggling with self acceptance.

It is the responsibility of our schools to ensure that every pupil has equal opportunity to achieve a high standard education, and feel supported and encouraged whilst doing so - currently, a section of our youth are being excluded.

Further, research carried out by LGBT Youth Scotland has found that; when asked "what they thought helped or could help them or others feel safe and supported within the education system", LGBTI+ pupils responded that "...visibility in the curriculum: subjects normalising LGBT people, same-sex relationships and transgender identities" (2) was a common response. It cannot be underestimated the impact that such statutory inclusion in the education curriculum could have on the lives of LGBTI+ youth. A section of our youth are facing serious struggles; many are self harming, others are committing suicide. It is our responsibility, as a progressive society, to tackle this effectively.

The key starting point is in education; thus, a statutory inclusive education programme that pays particular attention to topics and issues relating to the LGBTI+ community allows us to bypass many of the hurdles in our way in the efforts to tackle homo/bi/transphobia, and to create a safe learning environment for LGBTI+ pupils.

References
1. "The School Report" Stonewall Scotland http://bit.ly/1IaEJZN
2. "Education Report" LGBT Youth Scotland http://bit.ly/1Gjw5ea