|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 Constitution of Poland (Article 32) states that “no one shall be discriminated against in political, social, or economic life for any reason”. While this general prohibition on discrimination is in line with the European Union equality principles, there is no specific constitutional provision protecting LGTBQI citizens. Furthermore, because there is little precedent to evoke constitutional provisions directly in Poland, Article 23 has never been applied in the context of LGTBQI rights, let alone those within the field of education.
In 2010, in an effort to integrate its legislation with existing EU equality directives (particularly those within employment), Poland adopted the Equal Treatment Act. While the act distinguishes between direct and indirect forms of discrimination, and specifically delineates protections against discrimination on the grounds of “sex, race, ethnic origin, nationality, religion, denomination, beliefs, disability, age or sexual orientation”, it does not specifically provide protection against discrimination in education on the grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, or variations in sex characteristics.
Since the mid-2000s, there have been several legislative efforts to implement LGBTQI targeted protections, but none have prevailed. Consequently, no policies or action plans have been implemented to address LGBTQI inclusion and safety within the school system. Furthermore, there are no legal provisions that mention sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, or variations in sex characteristics as possible grounds for discrimination in the formal education system. However, Poland has sought to address the general problem of bullying through the implementation of generalised anti-bullying programs within its schools. Poland has also passed legislation that specifically targets cyber-bullying. It remains to be seen to which extent, if any, these provisions will specifically protect LGBTQI learners.
Information about sexual orientation is to some extent present in the school curriculum. However, it is not provided in an objective or affirming manner. The school curriculum does not contain references to gender identity and expression, nor variations in sex characteristics. According to recent research, teachers admit that they lack competence and skills to deal with homophobic and transphobic bullying at schools, stating that more trainings on the subject would be beneficial. More than half of the teachers interviewed admitted that the subject of sexual orientation is not present enough in the school curricula.
Sexual orientation or homophobia are not discussed or counteracted – more than 60% of students admit that the subject is not brought up by teachers during classes. At the same time, in 3,5% of all cases of verbal homophobic violence, the offenders were teachers, whereas 23,5% of cases of verbal violence happened at school. The situation is even worse when it comes to physical violence – almost 40% of homophobic attacks take place at learning facilities. 76% of students admit that homophobic language is present in their school, 26% have noticed physical bullying such as kicking, spitting and pulling. Because of that, only 12,6% of students are completely ‘out’ in their school environment. There is no data on suicide of young people due to homophobic bullying, but studies show that LGB teens have suicidal thoughts up to 5 times more often than their straight peers (accordingly 62,7% and 12,3%). According to the Social Situation of LGBTA persons in Poland Report 70% of LGBTA school youth feel “alone” and 69% have suicidal thoughts.
The documents concerning the standards for teacher training do not require teachers to be appropriately qualified to conduct anti-discrimination education or combat discrimination in school and there is currently no mandatory teacher training on LGBTQI awareness. Some teachers’ training centres, however, provide trainings on LGBTQI issues, non-discrimination or diversity. In most of the cases, these are the initiatives of the centres itself as opposed to be derived from centralised guidelines or regulations. Some pedagogical universities have declared to include LGBTQI issues into the training degrees (e.g. Pedagogical University in Cracow).
Various reports (“The Big Absent”, TEA, 2011; “Equality Lesson. Attitudes and needs of school staff and youth in terms of homophobia in schools”, KPH, 2012; “Discrimination in schools – presence unjustified”, TEA, 2015) address the issue that school staff is not given any means to familiarize themselves with non-discriminatory education in the process of training as a professional group. One of the key findings of the researches proves that educators who have not received relevant trainings conduct ecological/democratic/preventive education mistaking it for non-discriminatory one.
To date, Poland lacks clear legal or administrative proceedings for LGBTQI citizens to change the name or gender marker on their birth certificates. Presently, applicants must sue their legal parents in long, protracted proceedings to do so. Such a process has been described as an infringement upon one’s right to privacy and protection of family life by numerous LGBTQI and human rights groups. In 2015, Poland’s lower chamber of parliament passed the Gender Accordance Act, which sought to eliminate this procedural hurdle. However, the President of Poland vetoed the act, claiming that the law was “full of loopholes and inconsistencies and conflicted with existing judicial practices”. A necessary three-fifths vote by Poland’s lower house of Parliament to override the veto never took place as the parliamentary committee failed to produce the necessary report in advance.
Data on homophobic, biphobic, transphobic and interphobic bullying is not being collected by the government. The Ministry of Education’s project Safe+ addresses the issue of bulling and harassment, including cyber-bullying. However, it omits specific grounds of bullying and harassment, and instead focuses on reduction of alcohol and drug abuse, elimination of “pathological behaviour”, etc. More positively, the Association for Anti-Discrimination Education’s most recent report summarises the cases of bullying or harassment based on actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity and expression and variations in sex characteristics.
Each of the regions in Poland (Voievodship) has a Regional Superintendent whose role is to supervise the implementation of curricula provided by the Ministry. Since the last reform of education, superintendents are chosen by the Minister, as opposed to the open competitions, which increases the risk of “politicisation” of education in schools.
Most schools contact civil society organisations when there is a need to address bullying and harassment against LGBTQI students specifically.
There is no specific information for LGBTQI learners or guidance for the education sector on how to address bullying and harassment against LGBTQI students. Most schools rely on civil society organisations when there is a need to address bullying and harassment against LGBTQI students specifically.
The only governmental institution that supported civil society led activities in the area of education is Human Rights Defender (patronages, providing space for meetings, letters to schools in need of support for non-discriminatory education, etc.).
– Poland has not signed the Call for Action by Ministers – Inclusive and equitable education for all learners in an environment free from discrimination and violence.
– Poland is not a member of the European Governmental LGBTI Focal Points Network.
MPs launched a project that would support schools “opposing gay propaganda”, and the NGO “Ordo Iuris” declared legal support for parents who wish to sue schools that allow for “gay propaganda” to take place.
According to KPH’s research, sexual orientation continues to be a taboo in schools. LGBTQI learners and students are not provided with necessary information, protection or support to enable them to live as themselves. Many schools even deny the existence of LGBTQI students. Students who complain about homophobia at school often turn to the NGO, Campaign Against Homophobia (KPH). They experience homophobic behaviour, not only from students but also from teachers, educators, and especially priests, nuns and catechists conducting religion lessons. Teachers who admitted to being non-heterosexual become themselves victims of discrimination. There is no political climate conducive to the implementation of relevant equality policies in the educational system. The Ministry of Education is unwilling to cooperate with civil society organisations representing the LGBTQI community. Although many attempts of contact were undertaken by KPH – no cooperation has been launched so far.
KPH’s most recent formal education projects, “Equal school – without discrimination and violence” (2014-2016), and “Equality lesson” (2012-2014) were designed to assist schools evaluate its culture with regards to existing equal treatment policies, plan and successfully address the needs of school in terms of non-discriminatory education and good practices. Nonetheless, the project also has shown that public institutions’ support for such activities in the system of formal education is virtually non-existent. Currently schools are obliged to address the issues of inequality, discrimination and social exclusion and conduct non-discriminatory education (in accordance with the Decree of Ministry of Education regarding pedagogical supervision). Nevertheless, principals, teachers and school counsellors, who are responsible on the school’s part, have little to no knowledge or skills regarding discrimination and exclusion, especially regarding LGBTQI persons, left alone methods of non-discriminatory education.