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The Govt on bullying

Sat 6 Aug 2011 In: Features View at Wayback View at NDHA

For some time Rainbow Wellington has been trying to get a definitive statement out of the current government coalition on homophobic bullying in schools. We wrote twice to John Key on this matter but our letters went unacknowledged. When the issue got some profile earlier this year we wrote again and reminded the Prime Minister of previous correspondence. Again there was no reply. Mr Key did however meet with those who had initiated a schools tour to combat homophobic bullying and expressed his support for what they are doing. Subsequently, through the office of the Hon Jim Anderton we asked a Parliamentary Question for Written Reply: Q: Can the Minister of Education (Hon Ann Tolley) advise what programmes are in place specifically directed to combating homophobic bullying in secondary schools, and what financial resources have been specifically directed to the purpose since 2008? A: There are no programmes in place specifically directed to combating homophobic bullying in secondary schools. The Positive Behaviour for Learning action plan (PB4L), launched in 2009, includes a number of initiatives to promote positive behaviour and reduce the impact of disruptive behaviour on the learning and well being of students and teachers. The initiatives include: The Incredible Years parent programme; the incredible (sic) Years Teacher programme; School wide positive behaviour support; Behaviour Crisis Response service; and Intensive Wrap-around service. Tony Simpson's thoughts on that answer: This is hardly satisfactory. There is ample recent research both here and in other countries (particularly the United States) to demonstrate that general anti-bullying programmes and those directed to pupil behaviour in general are not effective in dealing with homophobic bullying. At the same time there is research to show that those subject to homophobic bullying are several magnitudes more likely to engage in self harm and attempted suicide than those subject to general bullying. It should be noted in this context that recently a member of the current governing coalition Maori Party M P Te Ururoa Flavell, has made the medieval suggestion that adolescents who commit suicide should be denied burial in sacred ground to discourage suicide. Perhaps he would also like to have a wooden stake driven through them! It should also be recalled that when the son of the deputy Prime Minister was found to be making homophobic remarks on his website Bill English declined to respond to questions from the gay media about his responsibilities as a parent in this matter, and as far as we are aware declined to become involved in any way. It is hardly surprising in those circumstances that there are no programmes in place or resources allocated specifically to combat homophobic bullying in schools. It appears that the cynicism we expressed at the time of the meeting initiated by John Key that photo ops with a well known international athlete and socially engaged young people were one thing, but putting money up front to do something practical about what is a very real problem is another thing entirely, was well justified. We will be raising this matter in the context of our questionnaire to political parties in the run-up to the forthcoming election Tony Simpson Rainbow Wellington Chair Tony Simpson, Rainbow Wellington - 6th August 2011    

Credit: Tony Simpson, Rainbow Wellington

First published: Saturday, 6th August 2011 - 1:36pm

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