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LGBT group in school?

Discussion in 'Secondary' started by rosaespanola, Mar 2, 2016.

  1. rosaespanola

    rosaespanola New commenter

    A couple of my year group, who are already in the anti-bullying ambassadors team that I organise, have expressed an interest in us starting an LGBT group in school. I'm more than happy to work with them on it, but I have no experience of groups like this so I'm not sure what sort of things it would involve, and being not-terribly-articulate 13 year olds, the pupils aren't very clear on what they'd have in mind for it either! If anyone has been involved with an LGBT group in a secondary school, it'd be great to hear how it worked and if you have any advice for setting up a new group.
  2. Vince_Ulam

    Vince_Ulam Star commenter

    Here is some advice for any teacher thinking of devising and leading activities for a group of lesbian, gay, bisexual & transgender schoolchildren: Don't. By all means facilitate after getting the approval of SLT, and possibly governors, but this is a minefield in all directions. Children are easily enthused by issues of social justice so this is likely a phase. If they have no ideas about what they have in mind for such a group then, really, they don't need it.
    ozincg likes this.
  3. rosaespanola

    rosaespanola New commenter

    I'm afraid I can't agree with you on that, and I find it rather patronising to dismiss their interest in an LGBT group as "a phase". Perhaps I wasn't clear enough on the motivation to start the group - it isn't that the pupils who've asked me about it don't know why they think an LGBT group would be a good idea, it's that none of us have experience of such a group, so are seeking advice from those who have about what sort of things they've done.
    To quote one of the people who wanted to set up the group - " I'm pretty sure I'm gay, and I'm fine with that, but it makes a lot of people worried if they think they're gay and they daren't tell anyone". Given the prevalence of self-harm, suicidal ideation and long term effects of homophobic bullying among gay teenagers, I'm not about to dismiss that as a "social justice phase".
  4. HotskyForTrotsky

    HotskyForTrotsky New commenter

    Funnily enough, Vince, that's what I was told as a teenager, in high-school, around the time pupils were making jokes up about my sexuality and staff wouldn't do much either way because their ethos put them in a bit of a rock-vs-hardplace scenario over whether to shush the bullying or my 'divergent lifestyle'.

    And here I am, years later, a teacher, still in that situation, wishing really damn hard that at some point in my adolescence someone had made the whole aspects of the LGBT+ issue clearer to me in my formative years so I wasn't carrying so much baggage.

    Safeguarding is a responsibility of every staff member at school - a child's social welfare cover's that. The very fact that they can't communicate what it is they need is part of the reason we're there - to use our more esteemed position as professionals to facilitate their needs.

    As adults. With adult responsibilities. Adult ways of dealing with situations and, more importantly, getting things done officially.
    blueskydreaming likes this.
  5. Vince_Ulam

    Vince_Ulam Star commenter

    If you read my responses you'll see that I do not say that there should never be a school group for children who identify as gay or lesbian or bisexual or transgender. I'm just saying do it properly and consult with the school authorities to make sure that, as a group for schoolchildren, there is a legitimate educational purpose to it which the school's authorities can uphold. The point of school is not to be a venue for people who are bullied because of one characteristic or another. If you think it is then you should have groups for children who are bullied because they have red hair and for those who are bullied because they are overweight for their height and for those who are bullied because their parents cannot afford the coolest pair of trainers or mobile telephone, or what-have-you.

    The solution to the issue outlined by the OP is to consult with PSHE and Pastoral and to take their advice, and to ensure that the school's anti-bullying policy is comprehensive and consistent.

    Charitably, either you do not know the meaning of 'facilitate' or that of 'needs'.

    I imagine that there are people who see their role as teachers to be the resolution of the perceived or actual injustices of their childhood but I hope that these are very few. Such personal motivations have nothing to do with safeguarding.

    The adult thing to do for a teacher in the OP's position is to go through official channels at their school rather than seeking can-do advice from strangers on an internet message board and throwing something together without any thought to the larger picture. Some teachers are just too eager to be popular with their pupils.
    Alice K, DYNAMO67 and wanet like this.
  6. HotskyForTrotsky

    HotskyForTrotsky New commenter

    There is a difference between bullying and discrimination, and I've yet to read a school policy that doesn't suggest that teachers should have an active role in ensuring a welcoming and equal environment for students of all walks of life. No-one suggested that should center around things as simple as hair-color, body-type, or style-choices (though there are health days and pupil premium for the issues surrounding the latter two).

    The problem I take isn't with what you've said - which is true, you've suggested the proper channel to process this kind of request. The issue is the attitude. This kind of thing shouldn't center around dropping off a memo or raising the question in a CPD; LGBT+ inclusion is a cause, and needs to be championed as such. The problem with it is it's on the very forefront of social justice issues, still a very contemporary issue, and there are a lot of situations where a staff member may be putting their neck on the line to achieve their aims.

    I'd rather celebrate the eagerness shown by the OP, I agree the idea's half-cooked, but that's probably because its rarely attempted? An internet message board for teachers that covers multiple countries sounds like the best idea to research if anyone has any experience in a similar situation. At the end of the day, we're here for advice and personal input, I see no harm in the OP asking for it before committing to any plan of action.

    Furthermore, while your point is true - some teachers are too eager to be popular with the kids, I'd add that many more teachers are unpopular for their patronizing or dismissive tones. Children are people too, you may be paid to talk down to them about facts and skills, don't do it socially. You're in a position of trust, and as a result, need to understand what kind of weight your words have, whether that's in a classroom with year 7 students or as a "star commenter" on a very influential website browsed by trainee teachers and NQTs.
  7. Vince_Ulam

    Vince_Ulam Star commenter

    In what sense are children bullied because of their sexual &or gender orientation any more worthy of school support groups than children being bullied for any other reason? To have one without any of the others implies promotion.

    I have not said that this can be resolved with a memo. I've recommended consultation with SLT, Pastoral, PSHE and governors.

    No, it's not a cause within schools, nor should it be. Inclusion itself is a goal within schools but to privilege any particular issue over any other is to exclude people affected by those other issues. By all means, teachers may parade all they wish at weekends but, to address a point you raise, teachers have influence over their pupils - because of this teachers should not promote to pupils their personal political positions.

    Yes, 'their aims'. Schools are not fora for teachers to promote their personal agenda and teachers do so at their own risk. We are not magistrates of social justice; to think otherwise is hubris. As I said, there needs to be a sound educational purpose to this group. If there isn't, don't touch it without appropriate authorisation. It's a minefield.

    These things would be the case if a moment's thought wouldn't recommend consultation with SLT &c - and if you didn't agree with me about this.

    Back to vocabulary. Let's be clear, to patronise and to dismiss are two different things. To be a teacher is to patronise professionally. To be patronising toward a child is a virtue for a teacher - loco parentis. To curtly dismiss, to insult, to degrade - these are different. Too many teachers - especially younger teachers - confuse courtesy towards and respect for pupils with equality. Teachers and pupils are not equal. The first are adults, the second are children. We are not the friends of our pupils. Beyond our duties to educate them in subjects, we stand in positive regard to them and we have responsibility for their welfare, but we are not their friends.

    I understand precisely the weight of my words and for this reason I apply them very carefully. I don't indoctrinate Year7 or any students with my political views on economic or social justice, nor do I shrink from letting student teachers, NQTs (each of which would do well to listen to senior staff) and other colleagues know if there are better ways of achieving our shared aims of teaching children or if they are acting inappropriately relative to these aims.
    Alice K likes this.
  8. MS1991

    MS1991 New commenter

    This has been a very interesting discussion, however, comments being made by Vince is what causes indifference to LGBTQ students.

    I have myself, on multiple occasions, come across senior members of staff in schools inform me I must not discuss LGBT issues with students, and to be an openly gay teacher is crossing a professional line and could lead to disciplinary. Which is entirely absurd, and illegal to imply such a thing. This bullying and degrading environment is not how modern schools should be.

    It is important for schools to adopt an open and accepting environment for all students / staff, dismissing this could make matters worse and promote homophobia. IT IS the schools and all teachers responsibility to promote an inclusive environment for LGBT students.

    As enforced by the teaching standards.
    • "showing tolerance of and respect for the rights of others"
    • "treating pupils with dignity, building relationships rooted in mutual respect"
    • "not undermining fundamental British values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect, and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs"
    As teachers it is both important to teach subject specific content, and these young individuals how to be good citizens. As mentioned above in the third bullet point, fundamental British values, which definitely includes acceptance of LGBT people, and that any discrimination is against the law, more so because same-sex marriage is legal in the United Kingdom, as well as same-sex parenthood etc...

    If students have expressed an interest in such a group, it is a very good step for the future of a positive ethos within the school. The fact being the majority of schools do not do enough to promote acceptance and allow homophobia to still exist in our modern society, both for students and teachers. The many times I have heard students get away with saying "Thats gay", or other much worse derogatory phrases aimed at LGBT or perceived LGBT student is just unacceptable.

    To get further advice I would suggest looking at the following websites.


    Speak to your SLT, contact the above charities, work with your school. The fact you care enough to consider doing this for your students, makes you such an inspirational person in my eyes and gives me hope for the future of acceptance in schools.​
    jarndyce and HotskyForTrotsky like this.
  9. Vince_Ulam

    Vince_Ulam Star commenter

    Rubbish because, after all your noble rhetoric about Teaching Standards and British Values, you say precisely what I have said repeatedly throughout this thread:

    Given that you agree with me on this fundamental point it's not worth my time to address any of the flawed politics and faulty professionalism outlined in the rest of your post.
  10. MS1991

    MS1991 New commenter

    It's your method of delivery Vince, the things you have said may have some merit. But the way certain things have been worded make you sound like you couldn't care less about the topic, and your input wasn't productive, and came across offensive..

    EXCEPT FOR "Speaking to SLT".
  11. Vince_Ulam

    Vince_Ulam Star commenter

    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 4, 2016
  12. Vince_Ulam

    Vince_Ulam Star commenter

    I'll say it again, @MS1991: You agree with me. If you don't like my tone, that's just your opinion and it doesn't alter the excellence of the advice I've given.
  13. DYNAMO67

    DYNAMO67 Lead commenter

    Don't see a lot wrong with anything that @Vince_Ulam has said here... Don't see the issue people are having.

    Discuss with pastoral leader and take it from there. If the kids have no idea on the purpose of the group there is little point really..
    Alice K likes this.
  14. rosaespanola

    rosaespanola New commenter

    I'm not going to enter into debate about whether or not my school (or any school) needs an LGBT group - LGBT students in my school feel that we need one, and that's good enough for me.

    As for discussing it with pastoral/SLT, I AM a pastoral leader, and before discussing this with SLT I would like to have something to actually discuss - i.e. what groups like this in other schools have done and how they work, hence me asking for comments from people who have already been involved with LGBT groups. Thank you to those of you who have already given practical advice and suggestions.

    I don't see the primary focus of the group as being anti-bullying - we already have an anti-bullying team in school who promote the anti-bullying message and work with victims of bullying. It would be more a point of contact for pupils who are questioning their sexuality or have realised that they are LGBT, and would like to meet other pupils in the same situation or get advice/talk to someone. Studies have shown that a huge number of LGBT teenagers have nobody they feel they can talk to and don't know where to get advice, which leads to all sorts of problems that could be avoided if there was somewhere they could go in school. I'd anticipate that there wouldn't just be one member of staff involved with the pupils in the group - for example we have a counsellor in school a couple of days a week to whom pupils could be referred if they felt that this would help them.

    Let's please keep the discussion on the original topic of what existing LGBT groups in secondary schools have done and whether the people who have run them have any advice for those setting up a new one. Thanks.
  15. Vince_Ulam

    Vince_Ulam Star commenter

    If your students feel they need a group then they should be able to tell you why. If they cannot then there is no need.

    Then, ignoring PSHE and safeguarding, you wish for children to advise other children on matters of sexuality.


    You will not be alone in your school in having a generic pastoral role yet there will be people with greater responsibilities in this than you. Talk to PSHE, SLT & Governors about this as soon as possible that those children who might have genuine issues beyond a wish to socialise with an elective identity group may receive any due support from those in your school with formal responsibility for and authority & discernment in these matters.
    DYNAMO67 likes this.
  16. DYNAMO67

    DYNAMO67 Lead commenter

    You mean well,but i think you are getting into dangerous territory here. You are not trained to offer such advice to pupils who need it. Students certainly are not. I am not disputing the need for people who can *signpost* students in the right direction, but I worry you are very, very naive here in thinking that it is is a good idea for a teacher to be heading up a group about this. Though I think you mean well, and i am not disputing that issues of sexuality are an issue in schools, you would be leaving yourself so open to dangerous criticism if parents complained that you were advising their son or daughter on issues of sexuality.
    FrankWolley and Vince_Ulam like this.
  17. Flere-Imsaho

    Flere-Imsaho Star commenter

    Surely the dangerous criticism would only apply if the person running the group was giving inappropriate or inaccurate advice? I would also suggest Stonewall as good place to start - they are keen to work with schools and may be able to tell you if there are successful groups in your area who might be willing to share ideas.
  18. Vince_Ulam

    Vince_Ulam Star commenter

    When offering advice on sexuality to other people's children, what is 'inappropriate' is relative. Nor is 'accuracy' an issue.
    DYNAMO67 likes this.
  19. rosaespanola

    rosaespanola New commenter

    Thank you for your concern, however some of the naysayers seem to be jumping to inaccurate conclusions, not reading posts properly and repeating the same things over and over again when I have already clarified that what they are saying is not accurate/relevant. I'm not going to go over the same things again, I'll just say that I am fully aware of safeguarding and PSHE, being that it's a significant part of my role in school, and I thought I'd made it fairly clear in my previous posts that I don't see this as a solo venture on my part. As I said, I will discuss the *possibility* of a group like this (since it is an idea, not a definite plan as some people seem to be assuming) with colleagues once I've gathered some information and have something concrete to discuss, and we will be able to decide together what would be the most appropriate and helpful course of action to support the LGBT pupils in our school. It's clear that something is required, if pupils are asking for it, but there are no fixed ideas about what form it would take. It could be an LGBT group, or it could be something else, depending what we feel is necessary and what would work best based on the resources and staff we have available.
    I'd appreciate it if the people opposed to the idea of schools offering support to LGBT pupils would accept that their concerns have been taken on board, and leave space for people who can comment on what their school has done to support LGBT pupils. Thanks.
    jarndyce likes this.
  20. DYNAMO67

    DYNAMO67 Lead commenter

    I typed a long reply on my phone and it timed out!

    In brief

    1) why take the risk on something that could very quickly blow up in your face, and it will- and offering advice on sexuality to children could

    2) it is our role to make kids aware of professional groups out there- stonewall etc not to be giving them advice ourselves or letting other kids do it.

    3) I don't see a SLT liking the premise of such group- anti homophobic bullying, certainly; one which the op mentions is open to criticism. Especially if it is facilitating debate on sexuality without parental knowledge
    Alice K likes this.

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