The Scottish Liberal Democrats have called on local authorities to ensure that homophobic bullying is recorded accurately as new figures showed nearly half of Scottish councils do not hold records on incidents of homophobia in schools.
While homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying in Scottish schools appears to have fallen in recent years, with only 58 reported cases last year compared to 144 in 2011-12, it remains a significant problem as a 2015 report from Stonewall made clear. However, the fact that many councils do not keep records of such incidents has resulted in the Lib Dems, and campaigning groups, voicing concerns that the true extent of the problem may be hidden.
Freedom of Information requests by the Liberal Democrats found that 14 of the councils responding did not record information on homophobic, transphobic or bi-phobic incidents or were unable to provide data on request. Of the councils maintaining records of incidents based on sexual orientation or gender identity prejudice, Inverclyde reported the most with 26 (20 in secondary schools and 6 in primaries).
Scottish Liberal Democrat education spokesman and Shetland MSP Tavish Scott warned that it will be difficult to get an accurate picture of the scale of the homophobic bullying faced by LGBTI youth unless clear data is collected from every local authority. He said: “Scotland and the rest of the UK have taken huge strides towards equality for LGBTI people in recent years, leading the world on issues like equal marriage. But there is still a huge amount of work to be done to tackle the prejudice that LGBTI people face every day.
“Schools have a fundamental role to play in ensuring that young people can learn about and understand the damage that LGBTI bullying can cause. We need to ensure that Scotland’s schools are inclusive and provide a safe environment for LGBTI youth. To get there we need to have a clear picture of the scale of homophobic bullying in schools and in many areas we are not getting this at present.”
Scottish Liberal Democrat children’s spokeswoman Sheila Thomson added: “It’s been sixteen years since the repeal of section 2A, which banned the discussion of homosexuality in schools. It is about time that we got to grips with homophobic bulling and challenged this prejudice head on.
“Many schools record incidents of homophobic bullying but others do not. Some councils hold information on homophobic bullying by many others do not. We need schools and local authorities to work together to ensure instances of homophobic bullying are recorded accurately by staff.”
Agreeing with the need to record homophobic incidents in Schools, a TIE spokesperson said: “In order to effectively tackle homo/bi/transphobic bullying in schools, it is imperative that such instances are properly recorded by staff. We have called for this as part of a wider strategy to ensure that all schools are LGBTI inclusive and so we are fully in support of the Scottish Liberal Democrats’ efforts to have this rolled out in each local authority area.”
A spokesperson from Stonewall Scotland said: “These figures are deeply concerning. It’s not acceptable that local authorities do not collect this vital data. Our own research highlights the scale of the problem in our schools with more than half of lesbian, gay and bisexual young people saying they’ve experienced homophobic bullying in schools. Unless this type of bullying is properly recorded we won’t know the full extent of the problem. Local authorities do not need to fear collecting the data, Stonewall Scotland can help, but this requires leadership both from the authorities themselves and critically from the Scottish Government also. We’re ready to work with both the Scottish Government and local government to make sure every young person is accepted without exception.”