Bi At School in 2016

25% of bisexual pupils and former school pupils report self harming regularly as a result of bullying, while another 7% self-harmed once.

A new report from the Time for Inclusive Education campaign explores LGBT experience of schools in Scotland among current pupils and those who have recently left. It’s based on two surveys – one of pupils, the other of teachers.

The report also finds a 13% of bisexual pupils and former pupils reported attempting suicide once as a result of bullying while another 2% tried more than once. Whether taken on their own or compared to rates in the general population these are distressingly high figures: as a society many of our bi young people are in great distress.

85% of bisexual pupils and former pupils experience(d) homo/bi/transphobia at school. This can take many forms, and 55% of bisexual pupils and former pupils reported that they were never bullied due to their sexual orientation, while 45% were.

So for 40% there may not have been direct bullying of them but they grew up in a culture and atmosphere that pressured bi people toward more heterosexual identity, experience and self-expression.

Infographic: Self harm rates

71% of bisexual pupils and former pupils reported that homo/bi/transphobia was never challenged by teachers at their school, and 79% that LGBT issues were not discussed or taught.

The report is based on data from 343 respondents, of whom 56 were bisexual, and 93 lesbian or gay. 35% were still in school, while of the rest a clear majority had left school in the last five years, so this mostly reflects life “post-section 28”.

92% of heterosexual respondents said they had never been bullied over perceived or actual sexuality; 64% of LGBT respondents said they had been bullied because of it. This suggests the ‘radar’ of bullies for the kids for whom LGBTphobic barbs will work best is very strong; perhaps also that slurs that don’t apply to us stick less in the memory. One respondent is quoted as saying that “I was bullied… my peers questioning my sexuality before I even had the chance to do it myself… Hiding a large part of my life while at school meant I have been left with a poor sense of self”.

Meanwhile teachers lack the information and support to deal with LGBTphobia in school. Of 408 teachers surveyed, only 7% said they had used a ‘toolkit’ on tackling homophobic bulling in schools distributed by the Scottish government in 2009 and still available on the Scottish education website; 47% didn’t know what it was. This probably contributed to just one in five teachers saying they had been adequately trained in dealing with biphobia, homophobia and transphobia, even though 94% said that all schools should be inclusive for LGBT pupils.

Because of the wider economic situation, funding is under a squeeze throughout the public sector and teachers noted that if relevant training comes with a price-tag it is much harder to access. This is a challenge without central funding as good, articulate LGBT educators who can give the best insight into LGBT experiences are not an unlimited free resource.

The report calls for a number of measures including better monitoring of LGBTphobic bullying, updated guidance for teachers, better training and the incorporation of LGBT issues into the wider curriculum: for example through incorporating key moments in LGBT history into the existing curriculum so that the subject is covered without creating additional workload for teachers.