Government moves to stamp out homophobia in schools

Research conducted by the Czech charity People in Need two years ago suggested that nearly three-quarters of school-age boys in this country had a ‘negative attitude’ towards homosexuality. A recently published European study indicates that that situation is not improving, and that homophobia is still a widespread problem in Czech schools. In light of the findings, the Czech government is producing a teachers’ manual to tackle the problem. Earlier, I spoke to Lucie Otáhalová who is behind the project. I asked her first about the scale of the problem faced:

“Well, the thing is, we don’t have that much data at the moment. There were two studies conducted - one in 2003, I think, one last year – and so all of the reliable data we have suggests that at schools, the percentage of homophobia is about one third. And what that means is that if we look at the group of students who are LGBT (that is to say lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender) then one third of them approximately have encountered homophobia such as bullying or harassment in their lives.”

And you seem to suspect that it could also be a problem in Czech schools amongst certain Czech teachers…

“Yes. That is something which rather surprised us and me personally. There were not many people, it was a small, small, group, but the research indicated that also Czech teachers might have problems with homophobia, and might also, in a small number of cases, be those who are the perpetrators.”

Can you tell me a bit about this manual – what will its contents be and who is it for?

“Well, the manual should be for teachers basically, so that they can use it when they encounter a case of homophobia, or homophobic harassment or bullying. And basically, it should define what homophobia is, what kind of problems students who are LGBT might encounter in their lives, and teachers should know how to deal with these cases.”

Do you think that a manual, a book, can really help stop harassment which takes place outside of school, in playgrounds and amongst groups of children themselves?

“Well that is a good question. A book never solved anything completely. It is a starting point, let’s say. And our aim, our idea, is to start the discussion in schools, because we are aware that LGBT issues are, in most cases, not issues which are often discussed in schools. And we need these issues to come out of the closet and be discussed, and this way we would like to gradually start a downturn in the number of incidences of homophobia.”