School campaign on homophobic abuse launched

By Nomia Iqbal and Jim Taylor
Newsbeat reporters

media captionNew campaign is launched to tackle homophobic and transphobic abuse in schools

A new campaign has been launched in England and Wales to tackle homophobic and transphobic abuse in schools.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has created the resource pack for teachers, which includes a lesson plan and DVD.

It will involve school staff who will be encouraged to download the pack but won't be forced to make use of it.

It is designed to explain the law around hate crime and encourage young people to talk about stereotypes and prejudice.

The charity Stonewall says more than half of LGBT pupils experience bullying.

Nazir Afzal, Chief Crown Prosecutor for the CPS in the North West, is responsible for the pack, which is backed by the Ministry of Justice.

He told Newsbeat: "People feel unsafe, they feel they can't go anywhere or do the things we take for granted just because of the way they are."

image copyrightCPS

The pack encourages pupils to think about how police would investigate allegations of hate crime in school or online.

"We're not about prosecuting everybody - I don't want to criminalise a whole generation or hundreds of thousands of people," said Nazir.

"We want to make people aware of the potential criminal behaviours that can arise from using such language."

The packs contain a DVD showing different scenarios of how homophobic bullying takes place, and is acted out by teenagers.

The lesson plan involves looking at those clips and identifying potential criminal charges as well as talking about offensive words.

There are also video clips of students talking about how abuse affected them.

The Law Commission recently called for a total review of hate crime laws, which it says are overcomplicated and not working well.

According to the Crime Survey for England and Wales, around 39,000 hate crimes based on the victim's sexual orientation take place each year.

In 2012/13, the police recorded 4,267 crimes of this kind, a two per cent fall on the previous year.

image captionJoshua says he was bullied for many years

Joshua Garfield is 19 and organises an LGBT group in central London.

He said a primary school teacher once told him "God made Adam and Eve, he didn't make Adam and Steve", and that bullying got worse once he started secondary school.

Joshua added: "They [other pupils] would often make crude gestures about gay sex, men with men, kissing, that kind of thing.

"If you weren't a misogynist who objectified girls and teachers, you were called a batty boy."

Twenty one-year-old Rhys says his school did tackle the abuse but the name calling affected him.

He said: "People would (mock) and say 'Are you gay? Why do you want to be a girl?'

"At one point I remember someone shoved a ruler down my throat, and although it wasn't anything to do with being gay, it made me paranoid.

"Anything negative that happens, you'll always relate it to the fact that you're gay."

image captionRhys feels that the CPS pack is a good idea and will make a difference

Rhiannon, 21, describes herself as pansexual - attracted to all people regardless of their gender identities and sex.

"In college a lot of the girls would voice opinions on how they found gay and lesbian people disgusting and they should burn in hell," she said.

"I knew if they're saying things like that then I would keep quiet, and not put myself in a position where I didn't want to complete my education."

She, like Rhys, thinks the CPS pack is a good idea.

She added: "Even if [abuse] goes on anywhere, if it's stamped out of schools that's a good start."

Joshua believes schools should be forced to teach it.

"Some people think it's too little too late but I disagree. It is too late though to do it and say 'it's an option'," he said.

"Whichever schools choose to do it, those children are going to have an unfairly privileged upbringing.

"They're going to grow up knowing they can identify with whatever gender they like and fall in love with whoever they like."

Although teachers' unions back this, there is some criticism that because the packs are voluntary, they may not be taken up by many schools.

Follow @BBCNewsbeat on Twitter and Radio1Newsbeat on YouTube

Related Internet Links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.