Tuesday, May 12, 2015

UK: Boarding schools told to introduce gender-neutral uniforms to prevent LBGT bullying

Boarding schools in the UK may soon adopt gender-neutral uniforms in order to prevent discrimination against LGBT students.

At a conference with the Boarding Schools Administration on Wednesday, Elly Barnes, a writer and LGBT Schools Advisor, explained that schools need to be more LGBT-friendly - even when it comes to their dress code.

She told the Independent: 'If it's all right for a girl to wear trousers, why should a boy not be allowed to wear a skirt. We should be giving them the option.'

Ms Barnes also called for teachers to be trained in how to be more inclusive and comfortable with the language associated with the gay and lesbian community.

This includes educating children about families with same-sex parents as well as discouraging the use of LGBT terms as insults.

She said: 'If a pupil says "my pen's run out, it’s so gay", you should challenge it. "My pen’s so Jewish, my pen’s so black", you wouldn’t be allowed to say it.'

Ms Barnes added that bullying on the basis of sexuality is just as bad as racist or sexist bullying, and should be treated as such.

Julie Bremner, head of media at Educate and Celebrate, a charity run by Ms Barnes, told the MailOnline that the movement is heading in the right direction.

She said: 'So far we have received very positive responses and this is an issue that can be raised and taken back to governors and leadership teams for further discussion.'

The uniform reform is just one initiative promoted by Educate and Celebrate, which draws on Ms Barnes' experience as a teacher to train and provide resources for teachers in relation to their LGBT students.

In March, the charity was one of eight national organisations which successfully bid for government funding to tackle homophobic bullying in schools.

Each organisation was awarded a share of £2million towards helping prevent and eradicate homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying.

Minister for Women and Equalities Jo Swinson, who announced the funding, said in a release: 'The trauma of being bullied at school can stay with you for life, and it is absolutely unacceptable that those who may be gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender are being targeted.

'Teachers need specialist support and training to help them stamp out homophobic bullying, which is why we have funded these excellent projects which are designed to tackle this issue head on.'

According to Metro's 2014 Youth Chances Survey, more than half of gay young people have experienced either harassment or discrimination.

And lobby group Stonewall found last year that 86per cent of secondary school teachers and 45per cent of primary school teachers said pupils at their school had experienced homophobic bullying.


UK: Grammars and comprehensives in affluent areas forced to axe staff as cash is diverted to 'disadvantaged' schools

Grammar schools and comprehensives in affluent areas are having to axe courses and sack staff as resources are diverted to less advantaged pupils, head teachers claim.

They say local authorities are ‘unfairly’ penalising schools with high numbers of bright or middle class pupils to divert money to needy children.

In some cases, school budgets are close to breaking point – with heads even claiming they face closure because of reductions in funding.

During the Coalition’s five years in power, ministers focused on improving education for the most disadvantaged children.

In 2011 they introduced the flagship ‘pupil premium’ policy, worth £1,300 for every primary pupil eligible for free school meals.

Schools also receive additional financial support for pupils with low prior attainment, those with English as a second language and children from deprived backgrounds.

But heads warn that this means many grammar schools and high-achieving comprehensives are losing out on funding.

They argue that some decisions are made ‘emotively’ rather than ‘sensibly’ and the huge sums awarded in some areas meant there was less money for everyone else.

Barry Sindall, chief executive of the Grammar School Heads Association, said: ‘Of course there are pupils with additional needs, and providing funding for them is right.

‘But in some local authorities, decisions are not based on rational analysis about how to strike a balance. It’s arbitrary. Allocation decisions can result in a crisis for schools which have a low population of children with special characteristics.

‘The amounts some schools are losing can be quite huge.’

Mr Sindall said local authorities could decide how much of their overall schools budget to dedicate to disadvantaged pupils – with wildly different decisions made in different areas of the country.

He said extra funding for low prior attainment ranged from £36 to £3,200 per pupil, while for pupils learning English it could range from £47 to £4,500.

He said the different amounts demonstrated that decisions were not being made consistently.

Meanwhile, schools without needy pupils have seen budget cuts of 8 per cent, with some getting £1million less each year than neighbouring schools.

Mark Fenton, headmaster of Dr Challoner’s Grammar School in Buckinghamshire, said he had been forced to withdraw business studies at both GCSE and A-level, as well as A-level music. Drama and language A-levels were also at risk because of budget cuts, he said.

The school now has a ratio of 18.7 pupils per teacher, compared with a national average of 15.1 in secondaries.

He told the Times Education Supplement: ‘Schools have just about got by, but we’ve got to the point where we can’t cut any more. I’m not saying all schools should get exactly the same, but funding should be allocated on a fair basis.’

Charlotte Marten, head of Rugby High in Warwickshire, said this was the third year in a row her school had been forced to make redundancies to balance the books.

She added: ‘There are inequities of funding that have existed for a long time, and on top of those we have decisions that effectively double or triple fund deprivation, further distorting the system.’

But Ian Widdows, founder of the National Association of Secondary Moderns, said: ‘If there are additional resources required for students with additional needs, that’s just the age we are in.’


Suspensions Handed Out After Students Wear Chick-fil-A Attire on LGBT Day — but It’s Not What You Think

It had been a week of awareness-raising at a Pennsylvania high school — teen suicide, disabilities and other issues were marked by students wearing specifically colored T-shirts each day in recognition of each issue.

On the final day last Friday, Bangor Area High School’s Gay-Straight Alliance — which organized the weeklong project — encouraged students to wear rainbow-colored T-shirts to draw attention to LGBT issues.

But during televised morning announcements at the school, two of the students seen onscreen wore Chick-fil-A shirts instead, senior Erin Snyder told the Morning Call.

And then the backlash began.

Although the pair of boys didn’t say anything during the broadcast about the rainbow T-shirt day or LGBT issues, seeing them in attire from Chick-fil-A — the fast-food chain that came under fire in 2012 after its CEO publicly supported traditional marriage — angered some fellow students.

During school hours a group of them took to Twitter and called out the offending students. The online posts against them continued through the weekend, the Morning Call said.

Then on Monday students got the dreaded call to the principal’s office — but not the boys who wore the Chick-fil-A shirts.

The students who sent the tweets were the ones in trouble. Snyder told the paper about 15 students, herself included, were suspended for tweeting during school hours and because some tweets contained obscenities. Other students were given detention, she said.

Superintendent Frank DeFelice and Tamara Gary, the principal of the high school about 90 miles north of Philadelphia, didn’t respond to the Morning Call’s requests for comment Thursday.

After one student tweeted support for the boys in the Chick-fil-A shirts — “You’re expressing your feelings … Why can’t he?” — Snyder, 18, replied in no uncertain terms: “Being an offensive [expletive] is not expressing your feelings.”

Jeff Vanderpool, 16, told the paper he got suspended as well because his tweet — ”Shout-out to the [expletive] in the Chik-fil-A (sic) shirts” — was threatening.

“I wouldn’t be upset if they did it on a different day,” Vanderpool told the Morning Call, “but it was a day to not discriminate against LGBT students, and that’s what they were trying to do.”

His mother, Pam Vanderpool, was angry at the school for not taking action against the students who wore the Chick-fil-A shirts.

“You want to encourage everyone to be their own person,” she told the paper, “and for someone to decide it’s OK for those two students to go on a morning show and wear a shirt like that with no repercussions, what is the school saying? That it’s OK?”

Snyder and Vanderpool were suspended for one day, the paper said; it isn’t clear if other students served longer suspensions.

More from the Morning Call:

The situation is under investigation by the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, said Mary Catherine Roper, deputy legal director of the organization, who called the suspensions a “pretty harsh punishment.”

In general, schools cannot punish students for comments made outside regular school hours.

Whether the situation violated free speech depends on what school officials thought was objectionable about the tweets, she said.

If officials objected to the content of the tweets sent during school because they contained explicitly profane or sexually graphic language, that’s within the school’s power, Roper said. If officials objected to the tweets because they were touching on sexual topics, that’s not OK because students were discussing a political issue.

As of Thursday, the ACLU representatives had not spoken to school district officials.

Students are permitted to bring cellphones, iPods, tablets, MP3 players and other electronic devices to school, but such devices must be turned off during school hours, between 7:20 a.m. and 2:05 p.m., according to the district’s policy handbook.

Some said LGBT students have been bullied at the school.

“There’s a girl who wore a rainbow flag during LGBT awareness day and she was teased very badly for who she is,” Jennifer Newland, president of the high school and middle school Parent Teacher Student Association, told the paper. “I know there are some girls who want to wear tuxedos to the prom, but are worried they will be sent home because they are not in gender-appropriate wear, or they will be teased.”

But she added that since the uproar over the boys who wore the Chick-fil-A shirts, other students have started to wear rainbow ribbons and bracelets.

“I think our school is very open for the most part, which is why it’s so upsetting to see something like this happen,” Newland told the Morning Call. “It’s really disappointing (those two students) felt the need to protest against a day that was supposed to be about support and anti-bullying.”  [But it's OK to bully students who wear Chick-fil-A shirts, apparently]


No comments: