Opinion: Tackling homophobic bullying in schools

Gay teen supporters of Stonewall and its campaign against homophobic bullying in schools, celebrating London's Gay Pride. July 2009 - Some rights reserved by lewishamdreamerLiberal Democrat colleagues may remember that one of Liberal Youth’s big campaigns was to stop homophobic bullying.

As the former Liberal Youth Chair in Northamptonshire it was a campaign that is very close to my heart. Too many LGBT young people are subjected to terrible abuse and bullying – just because of who they are.

When I was elected to the County Council in 2009 I wanted to do everything I could to make sure that all people in Northamptonshire were treated equally, regardless of their age, background, sexuality, race or faith. When I heard about Stonewall’s “Education Champions Programme”, offering training, information and support to local schools to tackle homophobic bullying, I thought “great, this is exactly what the Council should be doing!”

Unfortunately the Conservative administration at County Hall do not see it the same way. Across the country many councils have signed up to work with Stonewall. However, when I spoke up about the programme at a council meeting and asked the Cabinet Member for Schools in Northamptonshire about it, he made it very clear that he wasn’t interested and Northamptonshire wouldn’t be signing up.

Like all good Lib Dems though, I wasn’t going to let the Tories get in the way! In Northamptonshire we have a “Councillor Empowerment Fund” available for every Councillor to spend. So, over the last two years I have directly funded the programme out of my grant money – £1800 in 2011/12, £1800 in 2012/13 – becoming the only Councillor in the country to fund the scheme in this way.

So when people say you can’t make a difference through politics, I know this isn’t true. By working with Stonewall I’ve been able to achieve something that I, and others, have campaigned for over many years. Homophobic bullying in schools is unacceptable and I’m proud to say that I’m doing what I can to stamp it out.

* Richard Giddings is councillor for Lumbertubs division on Northamptonshire County Council

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  • Old Codger Chris 4th Feb '13 - 10:21am

    Well done Richard.

    I must admit I’d never heard of a Councillor Empowerment Fund. How many other councils have this excellent scheme?

  • A great example of effective local representation making a difference…

    Let’s hope that feedback and results shame the Council into changing course.

  • Great to hear Richard!

  • Matthew Huntbach 4th Feb '13 - 11:38pm

    From my recollection of schooldays, and young people I know have told me it is even worse now, ANY child who was smaller, quieter, more interested in intellectual things, more thoughtful, less aggressive, etc than his or her peers was routinely labelled by them as “gay” or with some other term which meant that but was more offensive. I am a little concerned that some of the material about homophobic bullying just seems to assume that anyone who is bullied in this way must be gay. It is not so. As a kid who experienced a little of this sort of bullying, I know that had the response from the teachers to have been to give me counselling oriented around supposing I was gay, I would have felt that a continuation of the bullying rather than a help.

  • It is good to try to teach tolerance to the youngest children. BE A BUDDY NOT A BULLY is a song CD for kids up to age 9.
    The song BE A BUDDY, NOT A BULLY is on utube.

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