Safe Schools Could Help The Homeless

April 15, 2016

Bullying and harassment in schools is one of the most troubling issue faced by young people today. It can have detrimental effects on a young person that may impact the student’s ability to learn and their ability to reach their full potential.

That is why Youth Off The Streets is in full support of the Safe Schools Coalition (SSC), which provides support for some of the most vulnerable in our society – lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and/or intersex (LGBTI) school students.

The SSC not only provides valuable support for students but also assists hundreds of schools and families in their efforts to actively promote safety, diversity, inclusion and respect in their communities. Most importantly, it has a substantial role to play in to preventing bullying and harassment of LGBTI school kids.

Many LGBTI young people experience daily homophobic and transphobic abuse by their peers in school. This type of trauma can cause long-term psychological harm. Young people who have suffered bullying are more vulnerable to experiencing anxiety, depression, self-harm, low self-esteem and suicidal thoughts to name a few.

Father Chris Riley, CEO and Founder of Youth Off The Streets believes schools play an important role in preventing bullying:

“Schools have the responsibility of developing a school ethos that requires all members of the school community to respect themselves, others and the environment. The Safe Schools framework helps schools fulfil this responsibility by providing member schools with free guidelines, support and information needed to respond to homophobic and transphobic behaviour in the classroom. It provides schools with ways in which to build inclusive school policies and practices and encourages respect and tolerance among school kids,” he said.

Unfortunately the bullying and harassment of LGBTI young people does not stop in schools. LGBTI kids face constant discrimination inside and outside of school, making SSC a suitable program to incorporate in support services across Australia.

LGBTI young people are particularly vulnerable to homelessness, having experienced family violence and school bullying in some form or another. A similar approach to Safe Schools should be adopted for homelessness support services so that they are better able to assist this vulnerable sector of society.

Rainbow Tick Standards provide a venue for organisations – regardless of the industry they operate in – to demonstrate their commitment to inclusive practices for LGBTI people in the community. It is a way to show LGBTI young people that they are welcome and understood, and may go a long way to helping them feel comfortable enough to get the assistance they need.

In our opinion, both schools and homelessness support services should be safe and inclusive spaces for all young people regardless of their sexual orientation, gender, ethnicity or faith. Adopting a version of the SSC framework across different organisation is the first step to ensuring this. We hope that organisations will continue to focus on this objective and put in place practices and procedures to support the diversity and wellbeing of young people across Australia.

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