Article Title:Towards LGBT Antibullying Laws in NZ
Category:Comment
Author or Credit:Craig Young
Published on:1st September 2013 - 09:51 am
Published by:GayNZ.com
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Story ID:13858
Text:Comprehensive anti-bullying legislation is probably the last frontier for LGBT rights in New Zealand, after the passage of comprehensive human rights protections for the transgender community. What is involved in this context?   At Brunel University in the United Kingdom, Professor Ian Rivers is probably one of the foremost global authorities on homophobic and transphobic bullying and its potential harm to LGBT children and adolescents, as well as its cumulative effects on LGBT adults in later life.  From 1993-1997, he collected data on 190 lesbians and gay men and then undertook a comprehensive qualitative and quantitative study of  mental health, well-being and resilience of 116 former victims of homophobic bullying, together with a series of intensive interviews with 16 participants.   In 2011, Oxford University Press (New York) published, Homophobic Bullying: Research and Theoretical Perspectives.  This book is a synthesis of the primarily research on homophobic bullying Rivers and collaborators have conducted over the last two decades. According to his blog, in another recent study, he undertook a case-control study of fifty three young people who indicated that they were attracted to members of the same-sex with 53 young people who reported being attracted to members of the opposite sex (participants in each group were matched on a number of demographic characteristics).    What about prevention resources?   In the United Kingdom, these began with Stand Up for Us (2004), by the UK Health Development Authority, an early general resource against homophobic bullying. In the United States, several such resource kits exist. For example, on 15th October, 2010, the US Society for Research on Child Development (SRCD) published Issue 4 of its 2010 Social Policy Reports.  This specific issue focused on Safe Schools Policy for LGBTQ Students. The report was written by Stephen T Russell (University of Arizona), Joseph Kosciw (GLSEN), Stacey Horn (University of Illinois at Chicago), and Elizabeth Saewyc (University of British Columbia, Canada). Evaluative commentaries were written by Rivers,  Susan M Swearer (University of Nebraska- Lincoln), Daniel O’Donnell (New York State Assembly), and Marko Liias (Washington State Representative).    As for actual reports on the incidence and frequency of homophobic and transphobic violence and bullying, whether verbal abuse or homophobic/transphobic violence and assault from other students and sometimes teachers, there have been several such studies carried out within the United States and United Kingdom by LGBT lobby organisations and youth lobby groups. Although it is a general resource on the devastating impact of transphobia, the US National Lesbian and Gay Task Force and National Center for Transgender Equality published, on 3rd February, 2011, Injustice At Every Turn: The National Transgender Discrimination Survey. This study utilised evidence collated from 6,450 trans or gender non-confoirming individuals within the U.S.  Overall, the results showed that the majority of those sampled  lived in extreme poverty with 41% reporting having attempted suicide and 78% having experienced transphobic harassment or assault (one sixth having left school because of it). Even worse, transsexual and pre-transsexual participants  harassed by teachers at school were found to have  “dramatically” worse health outcomes when compared to those who had not experienced such harassment.   UK LGBT lobby group Stonewall published the  The School Report (2007), which found that almost two thirds (65 per cent) of young lesbian, gay and bisexual pupils sampled had experienced bullying at school, significantly  rising to 75% for those attending religious-centred schools. Ninety eight per cent regularly heard verbally abusive phrases such as  “that’s so gay” or “you’re so gay” at school, with four fifths hearing such comments often or frequently. Only 23% of young gay people have been told that homophobic bullying is wrong . In those schools that directly condemned homophobic bullying, young LGBs are 60 per cent more likely not to have been bullied.   Stonewall followed this up with The Teachers’ Report: Homophobic Bullying  in Britain’s Schools   (2009), which outlined key findings from a survey of teachers’ experiences of homophobic bullying.  Overall, nine out of ten secondary school teachers and more than two in five primary school teachers reported that, regardless of sexual orientation, pupils experienced homophobic bullying, name calling or harassment in their schools. Secondary school teachers reported that homophobic bullying is the second most prevalent form of bullying after bullying because of a pupil’s weight and three times more prevalent than bullying due to religion or ethnicity. Overall, 95 per cent of secondary school teachers and approximately three quarters of primary school teachers reported hearing verbal abuse such as   ‘you’re so gay’ or ‘that’s so gay’ in their schools. Eight out of  ten secondary school teachers and two out of five primary school teachers said derogatory words such as ‘poof’, ‘dyke’, ‘queer’ and ‘faggot’ were commonplace. The majority of teachers and staff (nine out of ten in secondary and primary schools) had never received any specific training on how to respond to homophobic bullying during teacher training and professional development.   In 2012, Stonewall produced an updated version of  The School Report. This more recent study was based upon data collated by the University of Cambridge on over 1,600 young LGB people. According to this report, homophobic bullying continues to be widespread in Britain’s schools. More than half (fifty five percent) of lesbian, gay and bisexual pupils have experienced direct bullying (although this has dropped from sixty five percent in the 2007 report). Stonewall also claim that the use of homophobic verbal abuse in schools is endemic. The report's authors indicate that 99 % gay young people hear the phrases  ‘that’s so gay’ or ‘you’re so gay’ in school and 96% of gay pupils hear homophobic language on a regular basis. Other key findings include: - 3/5 LGB pupils who experience homophobic bullying say that teachers who witness such bullying never intervene against such incidents; - 50% LGB pupils report that their schools say homophobic bullying is wrong, with significently fewer in religious  schools (37 per cent) - Homophobic bullying has a profoundly damaging impact on young people’s school experience: 32%  said bullying changed their future educational plans and 3/5 said it impacted directly on their school work.   The School Report  (2012) also indicated that  LGB school students who are bullied at school are at a higher risk of suicide, self-harm and depression. Overall, 41% had  attempted or thought about taking their own life directly because of bullying and the same number said that they deliberately self-harmed as a result of being bullied.   In  2013, the not for profit organisation Ditch the Label  more recently reported on their online survey of 1,843 young people aged 16-26. This report focused on respondents experiences of general bullying, which included  a specific focus on sexual orientation and gender identity in primary, secondary schols as well as college. Overall, they report’s authors found that 57% of respondents were dissastisfied with the support services they were offered. Significantly, both young people with disabilities (physical, learning and mental health) and LGBT school students were most at risk from homophobic, transphobic and ableist bullying. Overall, the report founds that 69% of respondents had been the victims of bullying at school or college.   At the same time, Rivers, Joseph Robinson and Dorothy Espelage published an analysis of  longitudinal data collated by the UK Department of Education within the American Academy of Pediatrics peer-reviewed journal, Pediatrics. This is perhaps the first study to map, across several years,  the educational experiences of LGB students from 2004 until 2010. In total of the 4135 participants with data in all seven waves, we were able to track 187 who identified as LGB at age 16.    Rivers, Robinson and Espelage found that LGB victimisation rates decreased in absolute terms. However, trends in relative rates were more nuanced. The researchers found that gay and bisexual-identified boys became more likely to be victimised compared with straight-identified boys (they were twice as likely to be bullied in wave 1, one of seven evaluative segments; and nearly four times as likely in wave 7), whereas relative rates among girls were similar between waves 1 and 7, suggesting different LGB–heterosexual relative victimization rate trends for gay and bisexual boys, compared to young lesbians and bisexual girls. Early victimisation and emotional distress explained about 50% of later LGB–heterosexual emotional distress disparities for both boys and girls, however.   In the United States, the Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network has published several School Climate Reports- in 1999, 2001, 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2009. In 1999, 496 LGBT youth from 32 states completed the survey. Over 90% reported that they sometimes or frequently heard homophobic remarks at school, and almost all reported that these remarks came from other students. 69% reported experiencing some form of harassment or violence, and 13.7% reported physical assault. Over half said that they felt too intimidated to report these incidents to teachers, and one third felt uncomfortable discussing sexual orientation or gender identity issues with them.  In 2001, 904 LGBT students participated in the study.  Overall, 83.2% of LGBT students reported being verbally harassed (name calling, threats, etc.) because of their sexual orientation. 48.3% of LGBT students from ethnic minorities reported having been verbally harassed because of both their sexual orientation and their race/ethnicity. 65.4% reported having been sexually harassed (74.2% of lesbian and bisexual young women and 73.7% of transgender students reported being sexually harassed because of their sexual orientation or gender identity). Nearly  half  (41.9%) of LGBT students reported being subjected to schoolyard homophobic violence because of their sexual orientation with 21.1% being punched, kicked, injured with a weapon. In 2003, 887 students aged 13-20 years from 48 states participated in the third School Climate Report.  In this study, LGBT youth who reported being victims of regular  verbal harassment were twice as likely to report they did not intend to go onto higher education. Additionally, their grade point averages were significantly lower (2.9 vs. 3.3). 84% of LGBT students reported  homophobic and biphobic verbal abuse, with 82.9% reporting that teachers never or rarely intervened even when present.  In 2005, the fourth such study involved 1,732 students aged between 13 and 20.  75. 4% reported that they had heard homophobic verbal abuse (e.g. “faggot” or “dyke”) regularly at school. Nearly 90% (89.2%) reported hearing comments such as, “that’s so gay”, or “you’re so gay”  (inferring stupidity or worthlessness) at frequent intervals. Just over a third (37.8%) said that they had experienced homophobic or transphobic violence because of their sexual orientation and 26.1% as a result of their gender identity. One-fifth (17.6%) said they had been physically assaulted because of their sexual orientation, while 11.8% stated that they experienced transphobic assault  because of their gender identity In the fifth study (2007), 6,209 intermediate and high school students were surveyed. This report found that 86.2% of LGBT students experienced harassment at school in the past 12 months with 60.8% reporting  feeling unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation. Overall, 32.7%  missed a day of school as a result of homophobic verbal abuse or violence. The sixth and most recent report (2009) measured responses from 7,261 middle and high school students.  9 out of 10 LGBT students reported that they had experienced harassment at school in the past year, while  nearly two-thirds reported feeling unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation. Almost one third of students said that they missed at least one day of school in the past month because of concerns for personal safety. While the results showed that since 1999 there has been a gradual reduction in the frequency of overheard homophobic comments, experiences of severe forms of bullying have been constant over that period.   To date, the largest such study within the United States appears to be one conducted in 2004 by Calfornia's Safe Schools Coalition,  in conjunction with academics at the University of California, Davis. They published results (from the California Healthy Kids Survey) which involved 237, 544 school students in grades 7-11. 7.5% of these students had been bullied because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation. The final report, Safe Place to Learn, demonstrated that, when compared to those students perceived to be straight , those identified as lesbian, gay or bisexual were more likely to report a grade C average or lower (24% versus 17%), were more likely to report truancy over the last month (27% versus 7%), had been more likely to be threatened by someone holding a weapon (28% versus 5%) and were more likely to carry a weapon to school (19% versus 5%).   In Canada, national Canadian LGBT lobby group Egale Canada conducted a survey of more than 3700 high school students in Canada between December 2007 and June 2009. Egale published the final report of the survey, Every Class in Every School in 2011, in which it found that 70% of all students participating heard “that’s so gay” daily at school, and 48% of respondents heard “faggot”, “lezbo” and “dyke” daily. 58% or about 1400 of the 2400 heterosexual students participating in EGALE’s survey found homophobic comments upsetting. Further, EGALE found that students not directly affected by homophobia,  biphobia or transphobia were less aware of it. This finding relates to educational and psychological research done in the area of "empathy gaps for social pain" which suggests that those not directly experiencing social pain (in this case, bullying) consistently underestimate its’ effects and thus may not adequately respond to the needs of one experiencing social pain.   Obviously, there is limited utility and applicability in some of the noted content here. New Zealand has stricter gun control laws than the United States, which at least prevents firearm and knife violence against LGBT students here, and also has antidiscrimination legislation that could protect lesbian, gay and bisexual students (but not pre-transsexual students at risk from gender identity discrimination). Moreover, when it comes to religious observance, New Zealand's overall religious observance levels are somewhat lower than in the United Kingdom, and markedly so compared to the United States.    What about legislative responses? Obviously, the situation is complicated in the United States by its devolved state-based educational policies and the backwardness of the Southern United States when it comes to overall educational attainment, general social services and abnormally high levels of religious observance. However, given the attention paid to the issue, several US states have enacted various state-based anti-bullying statutes, although they vary in quality and scope. While several provide general legislative remedies to bullying, they don't mention sexual orientation or gender identity. Sadly, some mention sexual orientation but not gender identity. In 2011, the US Department of Education issued an Analysis of State Bullying Laws.  According to this document, Arkansas, California, New Mexico, Oregon, Maryland, New Jersey, North Carolina, Vermont and Washington all have specific antigay bullying prevention clauses within their state legislation. Unfortunately, California, New Mexico, Oregon and Washington state also fail to include transphobic bullying prevention in this context. However, Arkansas, Maryland, New Jersey, Vermont and North Carolina do include both sexual orientation and gender identity within state antibullying legislation.   In Canada, only two provinces, Manitoba (Bill 18- the Public Schools Amendment Act: Safe and Inclusive Schools) and Ontario (Bill 13- Accepting Schools Act), have thus far passed inclusive anti-bullying legislation, although the Harper administration has blocked attempts to do so within the federal Canadian Parliament.   Bill C-300 is the first ancillary project related to Canada’s proposed national suicide prevention strategy. It was a private member’s bill introduced by Conservative backbencher Harold Albrecht that enabled Health Canada to develop a public awareness strategy, collect and publish suicide-related data and prevention information, and work with Canada’s provinces to establish best practices suicide prevention criteria and create biennial reports about such steps. C-300 swept through the House of Commons during in Spring 2012 and is now under evaluation within the Senate health committee and  received royal assent late in 2012   Meanwhile, the New Democrat Party federal Opposition wanted to take things a step further, under its own proposed private member’s motion, M-385. M-385 would have established an all-party  standing committee in the House of Commons that would study and propose a new national Canadian anti-bullying strategy. While the Greens, Liberals and Bloc Quebecois all supported NDP MP Danny Morin’s antibullying legislative proposals, the Harper administration was cooler on the subject.   According to its spokespeople, it preferred ‘local initiatives’ and many Tory MPs voted against Morin’s bill- although nine Tory MPs did support it. Morin has his own antibullying website which urges Canadians to support M-385.  Tory MP Candice Bergen noted that Public Health Agency, the RCMP and Public Safety Canada all deal with bullying issues at a local and national level.  Unfortunately, Bill C-300 sponsor Albrecht was unsure about whether or not to support Morin’s initiative, which is also LGBT-inclusive. In the end, Morin's commendable initiative failed.   How do we proceed from here? There needs to be legislative response to bullying, which lists all of the criteria within the Human Rights Act as well as gender identity. Given the Ditch the Label research, it would be appropriate to enlist the assistance of New Zealand disability rights organisations and ask for inclusive coverage that deals with ableist harrassment and violence against members of their communities as well as our own.  As well as legislative prohibitions, there also needs to be an emphasis on enforceability and targeted funding for this purpose.   Given Key administration initiatives on cyberbullying from Justice Minister Judith Collins, it is possible that there might even be possible comprehensive antibullying legislation from the current government. After all, given that the above research suggests that homophobic and transphobic violence, verbal abuse and harrassment discourages educational retention and wastes human capital and potential, it would be prudent for some such response to be made in this context which would be wholly compatible with current centre-right government policy.  One hopes that we can rely on the same cross-partisan collaboration on this issue that also characterised the Marriage Equality Act this year. Recommended:   Robinson, J.P., Espelage, D.L. Stonewall UK: School Report (2007): http://www.stonewall.org.uk/education-for-all/research//190.asp   Stonewall UK: School Report (2012) http://www.stonewall.org.uk/schoolreport   Stonewall UK: The Teachers Report (2009): http://www.stonewall.org.uk/documents/the_teachers_report_1.pdf   California Safe Schools Coalition: Safe Place to Learn: http://www.casafeschools.org/SafePlacetoLearnLow.pdf   Injustice at Every Turn: National Transgender Discrimination Survey 2011: http://www.thetaskforce.org/downloads/reports/reports/ntds_full.pdf   Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network: National School Climate Report 1999: http://www.glsen.org/cgi-bin/iowa/all/news/record/16.html   Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network: National School Climate Report 2001: http://www.glsen.org/cgi-bin/iowa/all/news/record/1096.html   Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network: National School Climate Report 2003: http://www.glsen.org/cgi-bin/iowa/all/news/record/1413.html   Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network: National School Climate Report 2005: http://www.glsen.org/cgi-bin/iowa/all/news/record/1927.html   Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network: National School Climate Report 2007: http://www.glsen.org/cgi-bin/iowa/all/news/record/2340.html   Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network: National School Climate Report 2009: http://www.glsen.org/cgi-bin/iowa/all/library/record/2624.html?state=research Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network: National School Climate Report 2011: http://www.glsen.org/sites/default/files/2011NationalSchoolClimateSurveyFullReport.pdf   Egale Canada: Every Class in Every School (2011): http://egale.ca/youth-and-safer-schools/every-class   Winnipeg RAG Review: "The Need for Bill 18" 21.03.2013: http://wpgragreview.blogspot.co.nz/2013/03/the-need-for-bill-18   Manitoba Bill 18: Public Schools Amendment Act: Safe and Inclusive Schools: http://web2.gov.mb.ca/bills/40-2/pdf/b018.pdf   Ontario Bill 13: Accepting Schools Act: http://ontla.on.ca/web/bills/bills_detail.do?locale=en Ontario Department of Education: Bill 13- Background Information: http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/safeschools/acceptSafe.html   US Department of Education: Analysis of State Bullying Laws: http://www2.edu.gov/rschstat/eval/bullying/state-bullying-laws/state-bullying-laws.pdf Craig Young - 1st September 2013    
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