SPHE Blog Stand Up Awareness Week 2021

Next week (November 15th-19th), hundreds of second-level schools across Ireland will participate in Stand Up Awareness Week – a campaign from BeLonG To Youth Services to celebrate and recognise their LGBTI+ community.

BeLonG To is the national organisation supporting lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex (LGBTI+) young people across Ireland. Stand Up Awareness Week is a time to ensure everyone knows that biphobic, homophobic, and transphobic language and bullying will not be tolerated in your school.

Why We Need to Stand Up

The landscape of Ireland has changed for members of the LGBTI+ community over the past few decades, from the decriminalisation of homosexuality in 1993 to the vote for Marriage Equality for same-sex couples in 2015. With these changes, some people may wonder if there is a need for a campaign such as Stand Up Awareness Week.

In 2019, BeLonG To spoke to 788 LGBTI+ young people as part of their School Climate Survey with Columbia University in the USA. Findings indicate that in the 2018-2019 school year, an alarming 73% of LGBTI+ students felt unsafe at school in Ireland. 1
Running Stand Up Awareness Week is the first step to create a school, where LGBTI+ young people feel safe. It is important to note the positive outcomes when staff members, school policies, and the school curriculum include LGBTI+ identities. Research shows that even one staff member there to support LGBTI+ young people increase their feelings of wellbeing and safety.1,2

There are remarkable teachers and school staff across Ireland saving lives by creating safe and supportive spaces for LGBTI+ students. Findings from the School Climate Survey indicate that, where such support existed, LGBTI+ students were more likely to feel accepted by their peers, had an increased sense of belonging, and were less likely to miss school to avoid victimisation.1

By marking Stand Up Awareness Week in your school, you can help create a friendlier, safer school for LGBTI+ students and implement the recommendation of the Department of Education and Skills ‘Anti-Bullying Procedure’ to implement education and prevention strategies to explicitly address the issues of homophobic and transphobic bullying;

The recent 0033/2021 Circular from the Department of Education and Skills outlines that for the first time this year, the Inspectorate will be looking at the extent to which schools are engaging with the requirements of the Anti-Bullying Procedures, including reporting incidences of homophobic and transphobic bullying in schools.

Get Involved

As part of this year’s campaign, we are focusing on sustaining the inclusive and celebratory feeling experienced during Stand Up Awareness Week beyond November. Learn more about creating lasting LGBTI+ inclusivity through inclusive policies, an inclusive environment, and an inclusive curriculum in the Guide to Stand Up Awareness Week available to download from our website: www.belongto.org/standup

There you will also find Junior Cycle curriculum resources, a supplementary toolkit, and posters to help you prepare for Stand Up Awareness Week.

It is vital for education and youth services to create an environment where all young people can be themselves and feel welcome, celebrated, safe, and supported.

We hope that you and your school community will join us for Stand Up Awareness Week and play an important and life-saving role in the lives of LGBTI+ students.

References

1 Pizmony-Levy, O., BeLonG To Youth Services (2019). The 2019 Irish National School Climate Survey Report. Research Report. New York: Teachers College, Columbia University.
2 Költő, A., Vaughan, E., O’Sullivan, L., Kelly, C., Saewyc, E. M., & Nic Gabhainn, S. (2021). LGBTI+ Youth in Ireland and across Europe: A two-phased landscape and research gap analysis. Dublin: Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth.

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