A new guide to help students combat homophobia in schools is now available in Victoria.

An initiative of the Safe Schools Coalition Victoria (SSCV) and gay and lesbian support group Minus18, the information guide — Stand Out Against Homophobia in Schools — offers students advice on how to deal with homophobia in schools from the mouths of students who’ve experienced it.

SSCV coordinator Roz Ward told the Star Observer the 32-page resource is written by students for students and involves practical ways for students to create safe school environments for same-sex attracted and gender questioning young people.

“This is very much a realistic guide of things you can do if you’re a student in a school in Victoria, what the barriers might be and helpful hints and tips,” Ward said.

“At the moment there’s nothing like it really directed at students that’s based on real-life student experiences in Australian schools “Often students feel like they’re the first people to have ever done something, so [the guide is] the first step in creating a community of student activists in school who are challenging homophobia.”

Verbal and physical abuse against same-sex attracted young people is on the increase, according to 2010 La Trobe university research.

The Writing Themselves In 3 report showed that 61 percent of same-sex attracted or gender questioning young people in Australia experience verbal homophobic abuse, 18 percent physical homophobic abuse, and 26 percent other forms of homophobia. Up to 80 percent of this abuse occurred in schools.

Minus18 convenor Micah Scott told the Star Observer the new resource will help many students who feel isolated because of their sexuality or gender identity.

“This isn’t airy-fairy advice,” Scott said.

“It’s all good and well to say to a young person, ‘Don’t take bullying, stand up against homophobia’, but without practical ways to do it and without students’ stories and actual examples, that sort of advice becomes a bit meaningless.”

Scott said he also wants the guide to dispel the myth that homophobia isn’t a problem in schools, saying one of the young people interviewed for the guide, a student in Geelong, called on teachers to act after one boy was bullied after a photo of him with another boy appeared and was shown around the school.

“The boy was relentlessly bullied to the point he left the school because he couldn’t cope with the bullying,” Scott said.

“That was the trigger for the student we interviewed [for the Stand Up booklet] to go to the school vice principal and wellbeing coordinator and say we have a homophobia problem, what can we do to solve it?

“It’s unfortunate that it took such a significant event but sometimes that what it does take.” The Stand Out guide will be launched on Thursday, July 21.

INFO: www.minus18.org.au

Photo: Liam Wright

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