Failure to Protect GLBT Kids in our Schools

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The Green Party is about to publish a report showing that the Education Review Office is failing to ensure that our schools are safe environments for LGBT students, and are calling on the Education Minister to take urgent corrective action.

In 2011 in follow up to the ‘It Gets Better’ campaign University of Waikato student Murray Riches teamed up with Green Party MP, Kevin Hague, to write the ‘How do we make it better?’ report. Riches research found that while some schools did provide support for queer students, others did not. Yet providing a safe environment for students is a legal requirement of schools.

In a new report, Riches and Hague surveyed a large sample of secondary schools, looking at the information schools provided Education Review Office (ERO), and questioned principals on their support for GLBT students. The results were much worse than they had anticipated.

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Just over half of schools in the sample said that they provided education on gender and sexual diversity. Only 14.6% of schools demonstrated education on gender and sexual diversity as part of their anti-bullying programme. An abysmal 8.3% of the schools had some mention of genderqueer or trans* students in the documents provided relating to bullying and student safety. 10.4% of schools said they had a GLBT student support group, and only one in four principals said they were aware of instances of homophobic bullying.

Hague told express, “Most schools seem oblivious of the needs of their queer students, and are not taking their duty to provide a safe environment seriously. Whether school environments are safe or not is a lottery. What makes it worse is that this terrible performance was not picked up by ERO, and no remedial action to improve things for queer students was required by any school. ERO is the main way the Government assures the community and parents about the quality of schools. This failure by ERO is appalling and must be fixed urgently.”

Almost all private schools approached refused to provide any information for the project because they are not subject to the Official Information Act. Hague tell us, “St Paul’s Collegiate in Hamilton even claimed that it was ‘unacceptable’ for me to be conducting this investigation.” An opinion that seems at odds with the ERO’s report that St Paul’s has ‘high-quality, inclusive, pastoral care networks’.

Articles | Oliver Hall.

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