A new campaign for LGBTI education as a statutory right in the curriculum of Scottish schools has been launched to tackle homophobic attitudes among young people and to increase the confidence of the LGBTI community.
Time for Inclusive Education (TIE) is asking members of the public to sign a Scottish Parliament public petition to convince politicians to support the proposal and to kick-start a national debate on the subject. They also want people to share their stories of their time at school.
A Stonewall report into the experience of LGBTI pupils at schools in Scotland found that 54% do not feel part of their school communities, while 71% regularly skip school. 54% who have experienced direct homophobic bullying are regularly self-harming, while 26% of those bullied have attempted suicide.
The campaign has been launched by two activists, Jordan Daly (20) and Liam Stevenson (37), who only got involved in politics during the referendum campaign and met each other whilst campaigning.
Daly is a student at Glasgow University and struggled to accept his sexuality whilst at school, where he found no solace nor support. Sharing his experiences as an LGBTI young person to Stevenson led both to ignite the campaign for serious educational change.
Daly said of the campaign: “The current Scottish Education System allows schools to opt-out of progressive teaching programmes that include LGBTI youth. If we truly are a forward thinking society, then we need a progressive and inclusive education system to reflect this.
Stevenson added: “It has become very clear to me that there has to be a fundamental reform of our education curriculum – LGBTI+ issues must be addressed in the classroom, and support must be available for anyone struggling to accept themselves.
“As a progressive nation, we have a duty of care to our youth – thus, with the T.I.E. campaign, we will be urging the Scottish Government to make the inclusion of LGBTI+ topics and issues statutory across our schools, in order to tackle homophobia more effectively and allow all kids to learn in a safe and inclusive environment.”
The campaign is being supported by a variety of organisations and activists in the progressive movement.
Rob McDowall, Member of the Equality Council and Chair of LGBT Network, said: “I applaud the petitioners campaign to have a more LGBTI+ representative curriculum taught in Scotland’s schools.
“Young people need to be empowered to reject bigotry in all its forms, and by embracing the positive contributions of our LGBTI+ community we can challenge the heteronormative attitudes which all too often colour our view.
“Our education priorities need to evolve to ensure Scotland is at the vanguard of the diverse attitudes in our ever-changing society.”
Robin McAlpine, Director of Common Weal, said: “I found the story of how Jordan and Liam came together to start this campaign one of the most inspiring to have emerged from the recent political awakening of Scotland. In particular I hope that the way that Liam, who had never had any connection with the LGBTI community, came to realise that this is a fight for all of us and not just for that community will make many other people realise that this is their fight too. I just hope that our politicians, influence leaders, the public and the media can show as much enlightenment and support this important initiative.”
Other orgnisations, including the Scottish Humanist Society, have recently sought to put pressure on the Scottish government to reform the way Relationships, Sexual Health and Parenting (RSHP) education is delivered, especally in relation to ensuring that LGBTI relationships and sex education is available to all. The government introduced new guidance in December last year, pledging to teach about LGBTI relationships “in a positive manner”, but effectively allowed faith schools a veto.