Volunteer development and inclusion advisor at Scouts Scotland Ross Donald-Hewitt explains why the organisation is joining forces with the Tie Campaign for LGBT inclusive education
IN the age of marriage equality and equal adoption rights, when social attitudes have come so far, it is deeply worrying that 90 per cent of LGBT young people still experience homophobia, biphobia or transphobia while at school in Scotland.
That is why I am proud that Scouts Scotland is supporting the Time for Inclusive Education (Tie) Campaign, and working in partnership to ensure all young people feel safe, and have the opportunity to succeed, in school.
Having attended school in the 1990s, at a time when teachers couldn’t even talk about LGBT people for fear of losing their jobs, young people like myself struggled to have the confidence to come out. In the corridors, between lessons and even during classes, I would hear homophobic language or slurs that were seldom challenged by school staff.
Having attended school in the 1990s, at a time when teachers couldn’t even talk about LGBT people for fear of losing their jobs, young people like myself struggled to have the confidence to come out.
It is now 17 years since the repeal of Section 28 in Scotland – or more accurately Section 2A of the Local Government Act – which prevented teachers from even broaching the subject of LGBT people. While in the years since some schools and teachers have worked hard to create an inclusive educational environment, it is distressing to see that so many young people still experience prejudice and bullying for being gay, bisexual or trans.
The impact such bullying has on young people’s mental health and their ability to reach their full potential is profound and can have a lifelong impact on them.
I remember as a cub scout making a promise to help others. The idea of making a positive difference in the world through individual actions, and how we treat each other, was as important as the skills to build and light a fire.
As a Scout, while working in teams and supporting each other during adventurous activities, I learnt to respect other people and – of equal importance – to have self-respect. As a 17 year old, while climbing in the Cairngorms, I understood that Robert Baden-Powell’s words, "leave this world a little bit better than you found it", did not simply refer to the natural world around us but to the
society we live in also.
It was my experiences of scouting that kept me going through the dark periods of bullying at my high school. It was scouting that helped me build confidence and feel valued and respected. So, when I eventually built up the courage to come out myself, it is not surprising that I first told my friends in scouting. They were incredibly supportive and helped me through a daunting and emotional experience.
Fifteen years after leaving high school, so much has changed in terms of society’s attitudes towards LGBT people. I am now a school teacher myself and my pupils are aware that I am gay.
They see LGBT people as a normal members of society and they often ask how my husband is, in the same way they would ask any other teacher about their husband or wife. But sadly, the experience of many young LGBT people at school in Scotland doesn’t seem to have improved significantly since the days of Section 28.
As volunteers in scouting we know that all people – young and old – can achieve more when they feel safe, respected and valued. We welcome people from all backgrounds and understand that when people are properly supported they can take the risks that lead them to develop and make a real difference.
In fact, that is the purpose of scouting – to actively engage and support young people in their personal development, empowering them to make a positive contribution to society.
It is our scout values of integrity, respect, care, belief and cooperation that challenge us to stand up and tackle inequality and bullying in all its forms. That is why we are joining with the Tie Campaign to urge Scotland’s politicians to ensure all our young people, including those from the LGBT community, are free to learn and develop in a safe and supportive school environment.
It is our scout values of integrity, respect, care, belief and cooperation that challenge us to stand up and tackle inequality and bullying in all its forms. That is why we are joining with the Tie Campaign.
As scouts we are not bystanders. We do not simply watch the world go by. We want to make a positive difference in our local communities and help create a better world for everyone.
Let’s challenge homophobia, biphobia and transphobia and achieve that together.
Picture courtesy of alamosbasement
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