Students practising alternative lifestyles also guilty of bullying
Chairman of the Inner-City Teachers Coalition, Mark Malabver, is calling on the Ministry of Education to be comprehensive in its approach to addressing bullying in schools.
Malabver argued yesterday that the ministry's proposed policy is not inclusive enough and needs to be reviewed before it is rolled out.
Speaking with The Gleaner last week, Education Minister Ronald Thwaites indicated that concerns over the bullying of homosexuals in schools was among issues at the root of a security manual to be launched at the start of the new academic year.
Following his presentation in Parliament on Tuesday, he told The Gleaner that the manual, dubbed Security and Safety Guidelines, is expected to be included in the schools' curriculum and will be a platform to sensitise students on security issues.
"A number of civil-society groups, including members of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) fraternity, have raised with me issues of bullying. It is of serious concern and the policy of Government and of the ministry (of education) is to protect the sexual integrity of everyone, so the fact that they raise the concern would be an important issue for us," the minister said.
BROADER APPROACH NEEDED
Malabver, however, told The Gleaner that students who practice or appear to be practising alternative lifestyles are sometimes the perpetrators and, as a result, measures need to be put in place to address problematic behaviour.
"I won't beat around the bush, because we are aware that the bullying of persons who appear to be gay does take place in our schools, but what we are equally clear on is the fact that persons who are heterosexuals are also bullied by persons who practise alternative lifestyles," he declared.
"They (students showing alternative behaviour) seek to impose this lifestyle on individual students, and whenever that is resisted, sometimes the students are physically assaulted, and we are aware of a few occasions where it has got to the point of sexual harassment," he said.
"There are issues of extortion. There are cases where older boys intimidate younger girls, and as a group, we are saying that this policy must be inclusive," he said.
The chairman also noted that several factors contribute to these cases being under-reported.
"Many of these critical incidents go unreported for various reasons, including the fact that administrators are keen to ensure that the image of the schools in which these incidents take place is not tarnished.
"In addition to this, many of the victims of this type of 'bullyism' fail to report these matters for fear of reprisal from the group, as well as the stigma that is attached to attacks of this nature," he declared.