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How school challenged ‘you’re gay’ and other homophobic insults

PUBLISHED: 19:05 02 October 2018 | UPDATED: 22:23 03 October 2018

Kesgrave High School has achieved a Stonewall award for its diversity work. Picture: KESGRAVE HIGH SCHOOL

Kesgrave High School has achieved a Stonewall award for its diversity work. Picture: KESGRAVE HIGH SCHOOL

KESGRAVE HIGH SCHOOL

It is a school playground insult many of us know only too well from our childhoods.

Kesgrave High School has achieved a Stonewall award for its diversity work. Picture: KESGRAVE HIGH SCHOOL

 
Kesgrave High School has achieved a Stonewall award for its diversity work. Picture: KESGRAVE HIGH SCHOOL

But one Suffolk school believes that by challenging homophobic comments such as “you’re gay”, it has changed pupils’ attitudes - and helped build a more tolerant, diverse community.

Kesgrave High School has long championed diversity by encouraging students to respect people of a different race and sexual orientation to themselves.

But in the past year it has gone several steps further to stamp out discrimination, particularly by challenging the homophobic language many of us are all too familiar with.

All staff were given Stonewall training on how to promote diversity in the classroom after personal, social, health and economics education (PHSEE) co-ordinator Faye Cutting attended a course by the charity in London.

Kesgrave High School has achieved a Stonewall award for its diversity work. Picture: KESGRAVE HIGH SCHOOL

 
Kesgrave High School has achieved a Stonewall award for its diversity work. Picture: KESGRAVE HIGH SCHOOL

And they have steadily worked towards Stonewall’s School Bronze School Champions Award, which culminated in a “diversity week” where rainbow banners and flags were proudly displayed around the school near Ipswich.

While she said the use of “you’re gay” has declined significantly in the past decade, Ms Cutting said: “It’s one of those words that pupils use every now and again.

“It’s really diminished in the last 10 years but then you see some people who do use that word occasionally.

“I always used to challenge it by saying: ‘When has being gay ever been a bad thing? If that is not what you mean, then pick a different word.’

“That casual use is something students and staff alike need to stop and challenge - and that is a really strong message we’ve given to our students.

“It’s not just harmful to the person it’s said to. If it’s used in a derogatory way, there might actually be people in that room who are not sure of themselves and it might make them feel bad.

“Often it’s used because they don’t understand what it means.

“However it’s about raising awareness.

“We’re aiming for them to realise that no matter who you are, we’re all human beings and we should all be kind to each other - and should they wish to discuss how they feel about others, they shouldn’t feel afraid to talk to someone about it.”

Ms Cutting added there was a “real buzz about the school” during its diversity week as pupils embraced the message of equality.

It is an event teachers and students now plan to hold annually.

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