HALF OF PRIMARY school principals have had to deal with homophobic bullying, new research shows.
The DCU study, carried out by the National Anti-Bullying Research and Resource Centre (ABC), analyses the responses of 238 primary school principals nationwide and looked at whether principals had first-hand experience in dealing with the issue, whether they believed it was a significant problem and how they felt homophobic bullying should be addressed.
The research found that homophobic bullying was a reality in some primary schools in Ireland, with one in two respondents indicating that they had spoken to pupils about the use of homophobic language such as “gay”, “poof”, “faggot” or “lesbian”.
The findings also show that some principals did not always consider the use of homophobic pejorative terms to constitute bullying, which raises the issue of homophobic language being dismissed too lightly or homophobic bullying being considered as irrelevant in the primary school setting.
In 11% of cases, principals said that they had dealt with this issue either weekly or monthly and some also indicated that teachers and/ or parents had contacted them to raise a concern.
One in six (16%) indicated that they had dealt with an incident they would describe as homophobic bullying at least once during the school year and in a very small number of cases, principals said that they dealt with an incident where one pupil was physically abused because others thought they were gay or lesbian.
Speaking about the findings, Dr James O’Higgins Norman, director of the Anti-Bullying Centre in DCU, said:
We concentrated our research on the views of school principals because of the critical role they play in policy implementation. While principals have been given a clear mandate to address bullying, research on homophobic bullying in Irish schools has primarily been focussed on post-primary schools.
“It is clear from our findings that further education and training for school leaders on the topic is required as we are at the risk of them contributing further to the many silences that surround the topic in primary schools in Ireland.”
Researchers in ABC have developed a resource with the Belongto charity, which teaches school children about the effect of bullying. Pupils are taught about types of identity-based bullying based on the nine grounds of the Equality Acts.
The research has been published in the Irish Educational Studies journal.