February 2016 marked LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans) History Month. This is a great opportunity for schools to tackle prejudice bullying and specifically homophobic bullying. Following research, the Government in November 2015 said that schools are still plagued by homophobic bullying. Staff are often equipped and able to deal with bullying, but do not recognise the homophobic aspect and this means that it is not effectively prevented and addressed.
Pupils do not have to belong to the LGBT community to be bullied. Homophobic bullying can extend to affect other pupils. Examples include friends of LGBT pupils and pupils that are perceived to show the characteristics of LGBT pupils because they don’t fit gender norms or the norms of particular groups.
At ConflictHub, we classify homophobia as a form of prejudice. By acknowledging this form of prejudice, it becomes easier to recognise, prevent and respond to homophobic bullying when it occurs.
Firstly through our reporting process (which can be anonymous) parents and pupils can raise issues and concerns about pupils being bullied due to LGBT. Reporting is an important first step. It sends a message to all members of the school community to recognise that incidents of this nature are not acceptable and will be investigated.
Secondly, in order to address homophobic bullying, we need to empower targeted pupils. Drawing on our extensive experience, ConflictHub allows pupils, who have been the targets of homophobic bullying, the opportunity to voice their story. LGBT pupils feel empowered when their voice is heard and they become part of the ‘finding a solution’ process. In this way they feel confident that their school is pupil focused when addressing homophobic bullying.
The third aspect is for pupils to recognise the impact of homophobic bullying on LGBT pupils. Pupils who perpetrate homophobic bullying need to be given the opportunity to understand why homophobia is both harmful and not accepted by the school community. Punitive consequences alone do not promote an understanding of homophobic bullying for perpetrators. It is important for teachers to explore what has been motivating this form of abuse. Pupils may not perceive the use of homophobic language as being wrong or harmful. ConflictHub supports staff to manage difficult conversations with pupils about their perpetrating behaviour and to find ways to address and resolve the situation.
Finally ConflictHub help to address homophobic bullying by ensuring that the school has systems in place to identify both trends and solutions. Schools can clearly identify emerging trends and implement appropriate responses enabling them to keep people safe.