|SC||Variations of sex characteristics|
|GR1||Legal gender recognition without self-determination|
|GR2||Legal gender recognition with self-determination (over 16)|
|GR3||Legal gender recognition with self-determination (under 16)|
|FPN||LGBTI focal points network|
|CA||Ministerial call to action|
The Equal Status Acts (2000-2015) protect discrimination on the grounds of gender and sexual orientation; ‘gender’ has been interpreted to include ‘gender identity’. Variations in sex characteristics are not included as protected grounds in these acts. Particularly, the acts are meant to promote equality; prohibit certain kinds of discrimination (with some exceptions); prohibit sexual harassment and harassment on discriminatory grounds.
Furthermore, the Education Act (1998) and the Education (Welfare) Act (2000) state that schools must use their resources to ensure that education is inclusive of all learners. Schools must promote equality of opportunity and establish guidelines to ensure that the principles of equality are respected. As of 2014, all public-sector bodies (which include schools) have a “duty” to take proactive steps to eliminate discrimination.
The Irish government developed an Anti-bullying policy in 2013 with specific procedures to tackle, among others, discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity. According to the government, “the purpose of these procedures is to give direction and guidance to school authorities and school personnel in preventing and tackling school-based bullying behaviour amongst its pupils and in dealing with any negative impact within school of bullying behaviour that occurs elsewhere. These procedures apply to all recognised primary and post-primary schools and to centres for education (as defined in the Education Act 1998) which are attended by pupils under the age of 18 years”.
The policy refers specifically to homophobic and transphobic bulling. In particular, requirements under the Procedures included: (1) all schools must develop anti-bullying policies and the definition of bullying includes homophobic bullying; (2) education and prevention strategies must explicitly deal with homophobic and transphobic bullying; and (3) schools are responsible of creating positive school culture and climates. Schools may also need to address topics that are masked by prejudice and silence such as homophobic bullying.
Furthermore, the Irish Programme for Government (2016) is currently developing an LGBTI+ Youth Strategy (expected to be published in 2018). This is a key commitment from the Department of Children and Youth Affairs in the Programme for Government to strive for full inclusion of LGBTI+ people in Ireland. The National Youth Strategy (2017) identifies LGBTQI young people as “a specific group to be considered in the context of focused provision for young people”. It draws attention to homophobic, biphobic, transphobic and interphobic bullying, and is currently developing measures to improve the inclusion of LGBTQI youth. So far, the government has published a report of consultations with LGBTI+ young people in Ireland which represents the views of 4000 young people. It entails a list of the positives aspects of being an LGBTQI young person in Ireland, the issues and the challenges faced and the changes that would improve their lives. The report on the consultations will be a key source of data for the development of the Strategy.
It is not compulsory for education curricula to include content on sexual orientation, gender identity and expression or variations in sex characteristics. Relationship and sexuality education might include content on LGBTQI issues. The resource, Growing Up LGBT was developed in 2013 for teachers of this subject, but it is not required that they use this resource or cover LGBT topics. The resource includes print and video material for the classroom.
There is currently no mandatory teacher training on LGBTQI awareness, but university departments of education and individual instructors may choose to include this content in their modules.
BeLonG To’s teacher training includes information about how teachers can make referrals to BeLonG To’s National Network of LGBT+ youth services. BeLonG To has also started to receive invitations to provide training to professional educational services such as the professional development service for teachers in the national educational psychological service, and the education welfare service. This not only provides skills, knowledge and confidence-building, it also expands the number of educational professionals who know that learners can be referred to BeLonG To’s Youth Services.
The Gender Recognition Act (2015) states that a person needs to have attained the age of 18 years on the date they make an application for a gender recognition certificate. For those over 18, gender is self-declared, but only binary choices are allowed. Applicants between 16 and 18 years of age can also apply for gender recognition, but they must provide consent from their parents/guardians, along with certificates from the applicant’s primary physician and an endocrinologist or a psychiatrist unrelated to the applicant.
According to the Anti-Bullying Procedures, each school must have an anti-bullying policy. The policy must name homophobic and transphobic bullying, and the recording of incidents must allow for the naming of homophobic and transphobic bullying. However, data is collected only at the school level and not nationally. This data is not reported to the Department of Education nor is it made public. This monitoring includes sexual orientation and gender identity/expression, but not variations in sex characteristics.
Several large research studies have shown that LGBTQI-related bullying is widespread in Ireland. The incidence is more frequent than bullying among the wider population of school students. The most recent national study also found a correlation between such high rates of bullying and mental health difficulties such as self-harm and suicidal behaviour (which are higher for LGBTQI young people than the general youth population).
The Education Inspectorate’s role, for its part, would include monitoring the requirements of the Anti-Bullying Procedures within individual schools. It collects information to assess the extent to which schools have an anti-bullying policy and whether this policy names homophobic and transphobic bullying.
Pastoral care teams in schools may include teachers or guidance counsellors who have had previous training in LGBTQI issues, and who may have knowledge of local and national LGBTI youth services. These are BeLonG To-accredited youth services to which teachers can refer the student for support. These resources and supports are not system-wide within schools.
BeLonG To Youth Services has a National Network of LGBT+ youth services which cover sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. Variations in sex characteristics are not yet addressed by BeLonG To or by any other service, although BeLonG To has recently initiated an internal learning process in order to become inclusive of intersex people.
BeLonG To provides guidelines and information for LGBT learners, parents and schools.
The Department of Education provides part-funding of BeLonG To’s national awareness campaign, Stand Up Awareness Week.
– Ireland has not signed the Call for Action by Ministers – Inclusive and equitable education for all learners in an environment free from discrimination and violence.
– Ireland is a member of the European Governmental LGBTI Focal Points Network.
LGBT Safe and Supportive Schools (SASS)
LGBT SASS was developed in 2016 by BeLonG To and Health Promotion within Ireland’s national Health Services Executive. It is a comprehensive whole-school-community model for school change in order to become safe, supportive and inclusive of LGBT+ students. It was piloted in the NW of Ireland, in Donegal. Funding is now being sought to roll-out SASS nationally.
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Stand Up Awareness Week
BeLonG To’s Stand Up LGBT+ Awareness Week is a national event in November in secondary level schools across Ireland, now in its 8th year. Each year, BeLonG To sends Stand Up packs (with posters and teachers’ booklets) to all secondary level schools in Ireland. Stand Up Week address sexual orientation and gender identity/expression. Based upon the organisation’s data and a public attitudes poll conducted by an independent polling company, BeLonG To estimates that 30-35% of schools participate in Stand Up Week each year. The Department of Education statistics show that there were 352,257 students in Irish secondary level schools in 2016-17. That means that, in November 2016, Stand Up LGBTI+ Awareness Week reached between 105,000 and 123,000 students.
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