Homophobia still rampant in schools

Study finds many LGBTQ students feel unsafe

Taunts and insults are a daily occurrence for many students who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, two-spirited, queer or questioning (LGBTQ). This is one of the several unsettling findings in a national study lead by University of Winnipeg professor Catherine Taylor, with funding from anti-homophobia human rights organization Egale Canada.

The studyEvery Class in Every School: Egale’s Final Report on Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia in Canadian Schools surveyed over 3 700 students between 2007 and 2009 from across Canada. The report found that 64 per cent of LGBTQ students reported feeling unsafe at school, while 21 per cent reported being physical harassed or assaulted.

“What is striking is the gap students are experiencing between official school curriculum, which emphasizes human rights and diversity, and the curriculum of the hallways, where LGBTQ students feel unsafe, insulted or harassed,” Taylor said in a press release issued by the U of W.

“Students also see adults, including teachers, looking the other way rather than dealing with homophobic comments, and they express profound disappointment and cynicism about the adult world.”

Homophobic slurs were heard every day at school by 48 per cent of students surveyed, while 70 per cent of students reported hearing expressions such as ‘that’s so gay’ at school on a daily basis. Nearly 10 per cent of students who identified as LGBTQ reported hearing homophobic comments on a daily or weekly basis from teachers at their school.

58 per cent of straight students said they were upset by the homophobic comments prevalent in their schools. “What that tells me is there is a great deal of untapped solidarity in students, and that the public school culture can change,” Taylor said.

The report also found that LGBTQ students attending schools that had anti-homophobia policies were less likely to be victims of verbal or physical abuse at school. However, the report also states that LGBTQ students in schools with such policies “did not report significantly higher levels of feeling safe at school with regard to gender identity and gender expression.”

“This indicates a need to explicitly address gender identity, gender expression, and anti- transphobia in school and school board safer schools and equity and inclusive education policies.”

Looking for more?

Get the Best of Maclean's sent straight to your inbox. Sign up for news, commentary and analysis.