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No bullying gay youths - Harassment of homosexuals triggers new security manual in schools

Published:Wednesday | July 15, 2015 | 12:00 AMJodi-Ann Gilpin
Education Minister Ronald Thwaites

Concerns over the bullying of homosexuals in schools is among issues at the root of a security manual to be launched at the start of the new academic year.

The disclosure was made by Minister of Education Ronald Thwaites, who, following his presentation in Parliament on Tuesday, 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.

"Bullying not only affects this society (LGBT), as we have heard reports of issues with regards to older students interfering with younger students, issues of gender also arise, all of which offer a clear position on offering zero tolerance for bullying of any sort. The manual is now being prepared and will be fleshed out in short order," he told The Gleaner.

"It's difficult for me to say what exactly will be included at this point, but I have received a draft and I believe that it is off to a good start."

Thwaites added that though he believes the issue is mostly prevalent at the secondary level, it is imperative that the material is universal and age appropriate.

In his presentation on Tuesday, he also pointed out that the manual would include cyber bullying and human trafficking, which would be incorporated in the social studies curriculum.

Sections of the Child Care and Protection Act will also be included.

Aneisha Walker, teacher of English at a school in Western Jamaica, noted that it was a welcome initiative, but expressed that she was fearful of improper planning.

"I have never heard of any issues concerning homosexuality at my school. What we have here are gang-related incidents, which we see on a daily basis. Students are afraid of going to the bathroom alone, because they might be part of a particular clique and they are fearful that a member of the other clique might attack them," she said.

"Of course, we have those students who are labelled as bullies, and (they) randomly pick on students so I believe intervention is needed. My concern is that it will be another programme that will eventually stop because it wasn't planned properly. Proper execution will be very critical," Walker told The Gleaner.

Student at the Ardenne High School in Kingston, Nia Lee, expressed similar concerns noting that bullying is an issue that has been prevalent for some time.

"Proper consideration should be given for how it can relate to realistic situations and not just on paper. Many persons also feel as though their actions online hold no consequence because it's just 'words behind a screen' and others feelings aren't taken into consideration. I feel most persons who bully are hurt people themselves. They may feel unloved and have low self-esteem and look down on others as a means of feeling better. I think students who are sanctioned for bullying should be given mandatory guidance counselling," the student told The Gleaner.

- Raynaldo Marchalleck contributed to this story