Teachers ‘must handle homophobia better’

Teachers must get better at teaching pupils about sexual orientation, and must do more to prevent homophobia, according to the head of Swedish gay rights group RFSL and two teaching union chiefs.

The trio, writing in Dagens Nyheter to coincide with Stockholm Pride, say that schools are not providing an environment free from homophobia.

Sören Andersson, chairman of RFSL, Metta Fjelkner, chairwoman of the National Union of Teachers in Sweden (Lärarnas Riksförbund) and Eva-Lis Preisz, chairwoman of the Swedish Teachers’ Union (Lärarförbundet), say that only two percent of teachers have special training in handling homophobia.

Around eight percent of teachers think that their education has prepared them for dealing with questions about sexual orientation. Every second teacher out of the 1,400 asked said that they had heard pupils using abusive language about sexual orientation. One in ten teachers says that they have heard adults in schools using similar language.

They point out that the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention (Brå) had shown that around 40 percent of homophobic crimes were committed by young people, usually young men.

School authorities should give teachers the chance to pick up on negative attitudes to homosexuality, bisexuality and transgendered people. This would stop gay pupils from feeling excluded or vulnerable, they write.

The three demand that the government funds a national information campaign, and that all teacher training courses include questions about sexual orientation.