The bitter taste of 'lemon' grafitti

When a 13-year-old pupil was taken out of school, Linda Brown (not her real name) did not imagine that she would be cited as the reason.

But the West Midlands PE teacher was informed that the girl's parents objected to their daughter being taught by a lesbian. "The year before, the girl had come to lunchtime clubs and after-school matches," Miss Brown said. "She went from joining everything, to nothing at all. Then she left.

I was gutted."

This was one of the examples of homophobia the 37-year-old has encountered from parents, pupils and staff at school. Pupils have refused to change into their PE kit while Miss Brown is in the room. "You've got 12-year-old children thinking they're superior to you," she said. "Even though you're a member of staff, they think they can say things to you just because you're gay. You're a lesser mortal."

Pupils regularly shouted "lemon" or "dyke" as she walked down the corridor, or daubed crude graffiti on school walls. One pupil wrote "Miss Brown is a lemon" on the doors of the PE cupboard, knowing that she would come face-to-face with it several times each day. The graffiti was not removed for a week.

While senior managers were supportive, they were only prepared to take action when a culprit could be identified. So, last summer, Miss Brown decided to leave teaching for a job with the local authority.

"If I'd had a career without any of the abuse, I'd probably have gone on teaching," she said. "But you have kids you don't even know, you've never spoken to, shouting things down the corridor. It feels like bullying.

"I'd like to see schools challenge that. Homophobia needs to be dealt with as racism was. Everyone needs to know it's unacceptable."

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