Rónán Stewart, Deputy Editor.
A report commissioned by the Department of Education has shown that two-thirds of LGBT pupils feel unwelcomed in their schools.
The report also highlighted that of the 532 post-primary pupils interviewed, 25% had not spoken to anyone about their sexuality.
For those students who had spoken to staff about their sexuality, 54% felt unsupported by the staff that they told.
The report revealed that “participants felt that the relationships and sexual education which was provided either ignored the needs of LGBT young people or actively advocated against their interests.”
One student said: “I asked the teacher if we would learn about LGBT+ in biology and they said that everything you need to know will be found in gay/lesbian porn.”
According to the Guardian, the DUP’s Peter Weir, then regional education minister, was given the report in March 2016 which has now been made public 19 months later after inquiries were made from various media organisations.
The Department of Education has blamed the delay in publishing the report on the lack of an education minister being in place to approve its publication.
However, the DUP’s Peter Weir was education minister until the Stormont Assembly was dissolved in January 2017, meaning the report lay unpublished for 10 months with an incumbent education minister able to approve its publication.
John O’Doherty, director of the Rainbow Project, an LGBT+ support group in Northern Ireland, said the report “demonstrates institutional anti-LGBT bias, at all levels of education in Northern Ireland particularly within the Department of Education itself, directly breaching its statutory duty to promote equality of opportunity for LGBT people.”
“What we need to hear from the Department of Education, immediately, is what they will do to ensure that homophobic and transphobic discrimination ends in every school, in every sector, across Northern Ireland.”
The publication of this report increases concern for the well-being of the roughly 30,000 LGBTQ+ students in schools across Northern Ireland and highlights the need for urgent action to ensure and protect the rights of LGBTQ+ children.