A Glasgow University student has taken a petition to the Scottish Government calling for an end to LGBTI+ bullying in schools, inspired by his own experiences
Jordan Daly, 20, and Liam Stevenson’s campaign Time for Inclusive Education (TIE) aims to address discriminatory practices in schools and promote teacher training in order to combat bullying based upon sexual orientation or gender identity.
“I know what it was like to be a young, gay kid and feel isolated, helpless and confused”, Jordan says. “It’s been eight years since I was in that position at school and unfortunately not much has changed. We started Time for Inclusive Education to try to tackle this properly. Currently, one in four LGBT kids in Scottish schools have attempted suicide and, as far as we’re concerned, this is a national disgrace and more has to be done.”
The work of TIE is founded on the belief that both the contributions of the LGBTI+ community, and issues affecting LGBTI+ pupils should be recognised and taught within school environments.
“We want to push for an environment within all schools whereby there is no stigma attached to sexuality or gender identity - where no kid is bullied or ostracised for being themselves.
“In the immediate, we’d like to see the Scottish Government prioritise these issues and work with us to tackle them. We’d like to see at least one current teacher in every school trained on how to tackle LGBTI+ issues. We’d also like to see every trainee teacher receive equality training as part of their required qualifications.” Jordan explains.
The lack of support currently in place has led to LGBT bullying being commonplace in schools across the country.
Jordan and Liam believe that many Scottish schools are suffering from a “section 28 hangover”. Section 28, which became law in 1988, banned local authorities from portraying homosexuality in a positive light. It was abolished in 2003 by the Labour Government.
“Teachers have not been retrained since it was repealed, and new teachers are not being given equality and diversity training so, currently, teachers aren’t sure how to tackle LGBT-phobia and how to teach equality issues. In fact, only 16% of teachers have been trained on how to deal with these issues, and that’s been the teacher’s choice.
“LGBT-phobic bullying is still a massive issue in our schools and it’s damaging kids - 54% are self harming and 49% don’t feel that they are achieving their best. The LGBTI+ community is generally left out from many school communities, curricula and pastoral care resources. That’s our primary issue.”
TIE stood before Holyrood’s petitions committee to present their argument for why they believe education of LGBTI issues should be made statutory in Scottish schools.
The committee, which included Michael McMahon and Hanzala Malik of the Labour Party, David Torrance, Angus MacDonald and Kenny MacAskill of the SNP, Jackson Carlaw of the Scottish Conservatives, and independent MSP John Wilson were receptive to the proposals.
Jordan describes the response as very “encouraging”, he said: “the committee of MSPs that we spoke to were fully supportive of our suggestions. They took it seriously, and will be pressuring the Government to take steps to develop a strategy to address the situation. We were surprised, to be honest - we expected to be met with some resistance, but I think they realised that what we’re calling for here is vital - it’s a human rights issue, and it could save so many lives.”
Jordan and Liam’s friendship is a by-product of the Scottish independence referendum last year. After the result, Liam began independently organising political meetings in Cumbernauld and went on to organise events in support of food banks in the area where the pair met. Despite their obvious differences - Daly is 17 years younger than Stevenson and also gay - both are as passionate about changing the structures of education.
“We clicked very well from the beginning. When I met Liam, I opened up about my own struggles and what I’d went through when I was younger - that’s when we found the incentive to kick off the campaign.”