Enforce tolerance and respect in schools
THE EDITOR, Sir:
I am grateful for the platform that The Gleaner has given J-FLAG to discuss issues the LGBT community face in Jamaica and providing spaces for us to do so.
Just two days ago, an article was published amplifying the struggle of LGBT youth and bullying nationally. I am not surprised by the words of J-FLAG’s executive director that, “a 2015 study was done, and it shows that a significant number of the students who were interviewed said they don’t believe that the teachers would ever do anything about it, so they don’t even bother to talk to the teachers about the challenges they were facing”.
Often, students who are labelled as different by others are exposed to homophobic/transphobic slurs. This cycle is perpetuated by the lack of serious penalties against bullying that reinforce a measure of tolerance and respect.
Fortunately, I was afforded the opportunity to attend a school in the Corporate Area which had an anti-bullying clause. However, the culture of stigma and discrimination silenced students who were identified as LGBT. As a victim of bullying and a witness to the act, there were many opportunities to speak out, but the issue was never taken seriously.
Schools should be a haven of tolerance and respect every time. After all, we preach that schools prepare you for the working world. Imagine schools preparing students, batch after batch with little semblance of understanding or respect. Is this the Jamaica we really want to live in?
At the basic level, it begins with the family indeed, but if our schools are not safe havens, where will these youth find comfort to just be themselves?
Media and communications officer