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Difficulties for LGBT Students in Dutch Secondary Schools

by Redaktie in Lifestyle & Fashion , 31 January 2019

Dit artikel is ook in het Nederlands beschikbaar

Many LGBT students are still finding life difficult at Dutch secondary schools. This was reported in a study conducted by the University of Columbia in conjunction with the Dutch Gay Interest group COC.

It is however becoming clearer how the situation can be improved. Schools that have GSAs, supportive teachers, and a positive approach during lessons, are improving the situation.

Geert-Jan Edelenbosch, the COC's project leader for Youth and Education said that “the study should be an encouragement for schools to focus more attention on LGBT acceptance. LGBT students are finding life difficult, and it is now clear what schools can do to support them.”

In a letter, the COC called on the government to ensure that schools adopt a positive attitude on the subject of LGBTs and to make the subject mandatory at all Teaching Academies as well as focusing attention on LGBTs in anti-bullying campaigns. As a result of the study, Member of Parliament for the Dutch Labour party PvdA, Kirsten van den Hul, posed questions in the Lower House last December.

Suffering from Negative Remarks

The study showed that many negative remarks are made about homosexuals by both students and teachers in secondary schools, 70.9% and 79.9% respectively. 46.4% of all students have heard negative remarks at one point. Many LGBT students are troubled by these remarks (57.6%), but according to students who are targeted, teachers rarely take adequate measures (only 15.8%). Many negative remarks are also made at schools about transgenders (29%).

In the past year, almost half of LGBT students have been verbally abused due to their sexual preference, and around a quarter (27.5%) due to their gender expression. LGBT students are purposely excluded by fellow students (72.8%), and vicious rumours and lies are spread.

One of the respondents remarked that “I have contemplated suicide as a result of the bullying I have experienced".

In the past year, a large number of LGBT students have been subject to either slight or severe violence due to their sexual orientation (13.4%, 6.4% respectively) or gender expression (7.7% and 2.7% respectively). Most students who have experienced this (61.8%) report it to school staff, but only a small percentage of these think that adequate steps are taken (37.8%).

As a result of all this, LGBT students are often five times lonelier than the national average, or feel excluded or unhappy at school. Students who are bullied due to their sexual orientation or gender expression are, on average, absent twice as often as the average student. According to one student: “I often missed school because I was too afraid or too insecure to go; and as a result, have had to repeat a year due to too many missed classes”.

According to LGBT students, schools do not do enough to improve the situation. Four out of five students (78.3%) say that there is no positive focus on the subject of LGBTs during classes. The majority of students (55%) say there is no anti-bullying policy at their school and where one does exist there is almost no focus on LGBTs. Anti-bullying policy and focus on LGBT acceptance during classes is mandatory in Dutch schools.

A student commented: “At my school the LGBT chapter is usually skipped".

The study clearly shows how the situation for LGBTs at school can be improved. The situation is much better at schools with supportive teachers, a GSA and positive focus for LGBT acceptance during classes. LGBT students feel much more comfortable or accepted in schools where there are plenty of teachers who support them, and as a result are much less likely to miss classes. The same is true for schools with a GSA and for schools that focus positively on LGBTs during classes.

One student commented: “Having a GSA at school has helped enormously and I hope that all schools will have one”.

The study by the Teachers College of Columbia University in collaboration with the COC was conducted among 1065 LGBT students between the ages of 13 and 20 by means of an online survey.  A GSA is a group of students who think that everyone should be able to be the person he or she wants to be, without having to shame or explain. See their website for more info.




In our youngest issue, Gay News 344, April/ May/ June/ July 2020



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