A new LGBT support group has been set up in Mid Ulster after reports teenagers have suffered bullying in school because of their sexuality.
The revelations emerged at the inaugural meeting of Mid Ulster Green Party, when the students involved said they had not only been targeted by other students, but that teachers in some cases had failed to intervene.
Spokesperson for Mid Ulster Green Party, Caolan Mac Aodha, said one of the students he spoke to reported being told they would go to hell and that some teachers at one school said “orientation is a choice and that it’s wrong to be that way”.
Caolan said: “We had our first meeting for the Mid Ulster Green Party and we were discussing issues in the area.
“We had a few LGBT school children there and they were giving us some insight in what goes on in their schools.
“I have heard from two people that their teachers have actually joined in the bullying.”
As for the extent of the problem, the Green Party representative said it has “gone far beyond name-calling”.
“They are tormenting them everyday, everywhere they go in school,” he added. “Things like name-calling, being pushed around in the corridor, made fun of for not knowing their gender as it where.”
He said one boy told him he had been sexually harassed by someone who groped and slapped him, saying ‘you know you like it’.
Asked if the problems had been reported, Caolan said they hadn’t due to “a sense of helplessness or feeling that nothing will be done”.
And while the issues of which he has been made aware of are Mid Ulster based, he said he would not be surprised if they were much more wide-spread.
Off the back of these reports, Caolan said the party decided to set up a group for those facing homophobia or transphobia in the area in conjunction with Cara-Friend.
“We do have a lot of LGBT kids and a lot of homophobia. The way I see it, inaction is being complicit in that,” he added.
“When the teasing turns to taunting, and the taunts turn to slurs, and the slurs become relentless, the nature of the bullying can no longer be described so simplistically as ‘bullying’ - It’s blatant discrimination.
“The Green Party takes a zero-tolerance approach to discrimination in any form. We want to see homophobia and transphobia treated like the serious issues they are - with schools held accountable for their inaction - which puts young lives at risk.”
See Mid Ulster Green Party’s Facebook page for details.