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Union acts on gay bullying

The NASUWT is printing advice cards to help protect staff from homophobia. Helen Ward and Clare Dean report.

PRIMARY teacher David Bunting has had obscene graffiti scrawled on his classroom window and faced taunts and gestures from pupils and parents, all because he is gay.

The 47-year-old from Greatcoates primary, Grimsby, said: "The graffiti was aimed at me. We found out who did it and it was reported to the secondary school concerned. They were very supportive. I don't think any school would tolerate sexist or racist abuse and homophobia comes into the same category. Why should it be any different?" Teachers suffering from homophobic bullying can now get help from the National Association Schoolmasters Union of Woman Teachers, which is printing 10,000 pocket-sized advice cards.

The move follows complaints to the union from teachers experiencing intimidation and ridicule and name-calling.

Patrick Roach, NASUWT assistant secretary, said: "We advise schools and colleges about the need to have appropriate policies. They have a legal duty for the welfare of their pupils and employees."

The NASUWT said that more than half of all schools will have experienced at least one incident of homophobic bullying of either a staff member or a pupil within the last term.

Almost all - 99 per cent - have an anti-bullying policy, but the union says that only 6 per cent of the policies include reference to lesbian and gay-related bullying.

Mr Bunting said: "It has been difficult for me as a gay teacher, but when people realise you are not going to tolerate bullying, that makes it harder for them to do it.

"Because my primary shares the site with a secondary, it was not uncommon for secondary pupils to walk past and make gestures or shout through my window. I've had comments from parents too."

Mr Bunting, a member of the NASUWT's advisory committee on sexuality, education and employment, helped draw up the card. "This is an issue that has to be tackled. This card will give people confidence to approach management or their union. It is a positive signal."

* Teachers' unions are pressing for their members to be given similar rights to civil servants and MPs, who are to be given pension rights for unmarried or gay partners.

For more information contact the NASUWT on 0121 453 6150

WHAT THE CARD SAYS

The card proclaims: "It doesn't matter if you are a woman or a man, gay or straight, black or white, old or young - homophobic bullying affects everyone.

"It is an affront to human rights and dignity. It has no place within schools or society."

It gives examples of homophobic bullying, offensive jokes, name-calling, ridicule, insulting or abusive behaviour, graffiti, damage or threat to property, discrimination, physical threats, assault and bodily harm.

The card says that the NASUWT is campaigning for:

* zero tolerance of homophobic bullying in schools and society;

* equal rights for lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender teachers;

* UK law to protect lesbian,gay, bi-sexual and transgender workers;

* repeal of Section 28 of the Local Government Act which outlaws the

promotion of homosexuality by local authorities.

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