Erasing bullying

Challenge homophobic language. Don’t assume all students and teachers are straight. Support same-sex attracted students.

This is the advice from the Victorian government’s latest anti-bullying campaign, Bully Stoppers, revealed today for the state’s students, parents and teachers on the third annual National Day of Action against Bullying and Violence.

More than 600,000 students and 1,400 schools nationwide have signed up for the National Day of Action, organised by a coalition of school government agencies and bodies.

Organisations such as beyondblue and headspace are supporting the event with beyondblue CEO Kate Carnell saying today that people should follow the mantra of “If you see it, call it” to ensure bullies everywhere know their behaviour is unacceptable.

The Bully Stopper website, www.education.vic.gov.au/bullystoppers, is also calling on students to sign a pledge that they will step in and intervene if they see bullying happening.

The new website identifies homophobia as one of six main types of bullying in the state and has a two-page advice sheet on homophobia for teachers and parents to find out more.

Minus 18 general manager Micah Scott said young people he worked with still experienced homophobic bullying.

“It’s not being gay that causes the mental health issues, it’s the homophobia and abuse that young queer people experience that causes those issues,” he said.

“I think the main perpetrators of homophobia unfortunately is the broader community and people who don’t understand sexuality and so those campaigns that target the broader community need to explicitly name homophobia as an issue and tackle it directly.”

He said young people still faced gay taunts, exclusion, subtle homophobia and “non-aggressive” language such as phrases like “gay” as a negative term.

Safe Schools Coalition Victoria coordinator Roz Ward worked with the state government on the Bully Stoppers campaign.

“Having some specific information in there about challenging homophobic behaviour is not only useful in itself but useful because it raises awareness the issues around bullying on the basis of sexuality or perceived sexuality may need to be dealt with or prevented in slightly different ways,” Ward said.

She said it was very important that homophobic education was included in mainstream campaigns like the Bully Stopper campaign.

“We know that where homophobia is not mentioned and where sexual diversity is not mentioned that these issues are not addressed,” Ward said.

“This kind of information in mainstream resources gives schools the confidence to know that this is something that they should be doing.”

Ward also encouraged Victorian schools to take advantage of Bully Stopper grant scheme, offering $5,000 grants for up to 200 schools to introduce their own anti-bullying initiatives on areas like homophobia.

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