The latest research: bis at school

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.

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.

Given the wider economic situation, funding is under a squeeze throughout the public sector and teachers noted that if 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 the subject is covered without creating additional workload for teachers.  Here’s hoping the Scottish government follow its lead.