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Safety of Non-Heterosex'l Students Must Be Ensured

MEDIA RELEASE

Safety of Non-Heterosexual Students Must Be Ensured

(EMBARGOED UNTIL 6:15pm, April 3, 2007) All New Zealand schools should have explicit anti-bullying and homophobia policies, and young people with diverse sexualities and genders need safe and supportive school environments.

This is one of the recommendations detailed in a report, released today, by the New Zealand Parliamentarian’s Group on Population and Development (NZPPD), a cross-party group of MPs; and fully supported by the OUT THERE Youth Development Project, which aims to create communities that are safe and inclusive of sexuality and gender diversity.

OUT THERE is now urging government to act on the report’s recommendations. “Schools have a lot of work to do in terms of providing a safe environment for queer (non-heterosexual) young people,” says Nathan Brown, National Co-ordinator of OUT THERE. “An alarming study made by Otago University in 2003 found only 5% of students and 7% of staff from over 100 high schools believed gay/lesbian/bisexual students would feel safe at their schools.”

The Youth 2000 study found that around one in 12 high school students are non-heterosexual, and more than two-thirds who reported being attracted to the same or both sexes were not open about their orientation.

“Non-heterosexual youth are a vulnerable and invisible population, particularly in schools where homophobic bullying is rife,” Brown says. “Evidence-based research shows this significantly increases the likelihood of depression and suicide. This issue simply cannot be ignored.”

OUT THERE believes the Health and Physical Education curriculum should include anti-homophobia education, delivered properly in all schools, and that the Ministry of Education should do more to support safe environments in schools.

“Teachers who are already working within the system to provide non-judgmental and supportive learning environments for queer students need to be supported at the highest levels of school policy,” Brown says.

More information on the work of OUT THERE, with resources including the Safety In Schools Action Kit, can be found at the OUT THERE website: www.outthere.org.nz .

ENDS

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