Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Tackling homophobic bullying

I have just written to my old school to ask them how they are tackling homophobic bullying.

To: info@bitterneparkschool.org.uk

Dear Ms Trigger,

As a former student at Bitterne Park Comprehensive School, I’d like to raise an issue that’s very important to me. This will be the third time I have written to the school to ask about this. I was very disappointed that I did not receive a reply to my previous emails, but perhaps this time it will be different.

I recently read Stonewall’s School Report, research conducted by the University of Cambridge into the experience of 1,600 lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) young people in Britain’s schools. I was concerned to discover that more than half of LGBT young people are still experiencing homophobic bullying in schools, and almost all of them regularly hear the use of homophobic language. The study also found that this bullying not only negatively impacts on young people’s happiness and attainment at school, but can also have severe consequences for their mental health and well-being.

I remember that when I was a student at Bitterne Park, Section 28 was still in force, and a close friend was on the receiving end of homophobic bullying, and the teachers could not do anything to stop it. I myself was also on the receiving end of homophobic bullying, and found it demoralising.

Thankfully, the University of Cambridge research showed that in those schools that take simple steps to tackle homophobia, for instance by challenging homophobic language, levels of homophobic bullying decrease markedly and young people report feeling happier and more welcome in their schools.

In light of Anti-Bullying Week, which is coming up on 19-23 November, I thought you might like to know about Stonewall’s School Champions programme, which has been specifically designed to help schools develop strategies for tackling homophobic bullying. The programme is already working with schools across Britain and if you’d like to find out how to become one of them just visit: www.stonewall.org.uk/schoolchampions. Stonewall also has a wide range of education resources available on their website to help teachers reduce and tackle homophobic bullying – available at www.stonewall.org.uk/resources.

Thank you for taking my concerns into consideration and I look forward to hearing back from you. If you’d like more details about what Stonewall is doing during Anti-Bullying Week, you can visit www.stonewall.org.uk/antibullying


Thursday, October 04, 2012

Charitable giving

I think we need to move away from a human-centric view of the world towards a deep ecology view, that is what has got our species into so much trouble. Social and environmental justice are part and parcel of the same thing. If you care for the environment, you are also caring for its inhabitants, which include people. And animals are people, in my book. They are sentient, they feel compassion and love, they have distinct personalities.  Yet another reason why I am a Pagan. 

I know some people who only give to charities that help people in the UK, because they seem unable to see that we are all part of the same world, and that if people in other countries are suffering, then it will eventually have an impact on us - indeed, already is, what with the number of asylum seekers (who are very welcome as far as I am concerned).

Other species' suffering, because it impacts the ecosystem, will eventually have an impact on humans anyway. Not that I think giving to animal and environment charities needs justifying on the grounds of the effect on humans, any more than I think giving to non-UK-helping charities needs justifying on the grounds of how it will help people in the UK.

My regular charitable giving goes to Survival International, RSPCA, Friends of the Earth, Oxfam, Stonewall, and Sight Savers. I also buy the Big Issue and shop in charity shops. I used to give to Greenpeace but recently I have become concerned about their campaigning methods.

I need to do a charity audit and decide which charities I will donate to, and why. I think I need to increase my giving to animal and environmental ones.