The Catholic Education Commission will be grilled on what it is doing to tackle homophobic bullying in Catholic schools during the second day of a NSW inquiry this week.

Earlier, the NSW Education Department (DET) revealed there was more work to be done to combat anti-gay harassment in the classroom and playgrounds of public schools.

One of the issues we had in terms of the anti-bullying plan was to make it clear that bullying can include all forms of harassment and intimidation, DET director of student welfare David McKie told the inquiry.

We saw that anti-homophobia was one of the prevention-type approaches that may need to be undertaken in relation to bullying, if in fact it is detected.

Out Labor MP Penny Sharpe asked the department what it was doing to address the problem.

McKie said measures encouraged in the plan include sexuality issues training for public school counsellors and involve-ment in conferences, such as last year’s That’s So Gay education conference. The topic is permitted within personal development classes, and teachers are given guidance with the 1995 booklet Revised Resources for Teaching Against Violence.

The latest research out of Victoria to which I have access certainly indicates that schools need to have a strong focus on anti-homophobia, that same-sex attracted young people were finding that more and more there were staff on site they could seek support from, McKie said.

However, several students and staff have told Sydney Star Observer this week about being blocked from searching for gay and lesbian information using public school computers. A spokesman for the department disputed the filter still blocked gay material.

NSW Greens MLC Dr John Kaye, a member of the inquiry committee, said the gay web filter was appalling and overdue to be dropped.

What it means is a large body of material relating to sexuality and gender is simply not available on presumption that the material is erotic or pornographic. It’s time the department recognised that everything gay is not pornographic, Kaye told Sydney Star Observer. He added he would question the Catholic Education Commission on its policies this week.

As well as being a source of support, the internet was also a new battleground for homophobic bullying, National Centre Against Bullying chairman and former chief justice of the family court Alastair Nicholson said.

Cyber-bullying lends itself to homophobia and sexual bullying, he said. That is one of the really worrying things about it, because it is anonymous, or they think it is anonymous, and you can say all sorts of things.

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