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Educating for diversity

Educating for diversity: Study shows young people think RainbowYOUTH’s workshops should be in all secondary schools.

Recently released information about New Zealand’s suicide toll shows its highest numbers since records began. With studies showing that queer young people are 5 times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers and sexuality-based bullying commonplace in secondary schools, RainbowYOUTH’s education workshops around sexuality and gender diversity are continuing to prove relevant and important.

RainbowYOUTH has been delivering sexuality diversity (and more recently gender diversity) workshops with the aim of reducing bullying in secondary schools since the 1990s.

In 2013, working in partnership with the Ministry of Education, RainbowYOUTH commissioned research which sought to formally evaluate their diversity education workshops. In recognition of the difficulties sexuality diverse (e.g. lesbian, gay and bisexual) young people face in terms of bullying, the study focused on how these workshops contribute to developing more positive school environments.

Over 200 students from public schools in Auckland participated in the study. The results of the study have been recently published in Australasian Psychiatry, a journal of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists.

Aych McArdle, Education Director:
“We are really proud to have the results of this study published in Australasian Psychiatry and commend the hard work of Mathijs Lucassen and James Burford. This research highlights how important it is for students to have access to unbiased accurate sexuality education. At RainbowYOUTH we are committed to working alongside schools to bring about cultural change in their learning environments to make school safer for all students”

The results highlighted that three-quarters of students thought the workshop would reduce bullying in schools, and over 95% of the students thought that other secondary schools should offer the workshop. Students characterised their school climates as ‘hard’ and included ‘bullying’ and ‘mocking’ of sexuality-diverse students; however, many individual students reported a desire to be supportive of their sexuality-diverse peers.

The study’s co-authors James Burford (Thammasat University, Thailand and Auckland University) and Dr Mathijs Lucassen (Open University, United Kingdom and Auckland University) concluded that as well as having workshops like RY’s in schools, specific policy instruments be developed, to ensure that school communities respond appropriately if their schools are found to result in harassment, alienation, or violence towards sexuality, sex, and gender diverse students.

More information about RainbowYOUTH’s education package can be found on their website:


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