A few statistics to get you thinking: 54% of all children and young people in our country have been bullied at some point during their school lives. 20% have been bullied in the last year. 10% are bullied on an almost daily basis. That’s nearly 150,000 children and young people who dread going to school every single day of their lives, for fear of what awaits them. Of those bullied daily, 37% have developed social anxiety, 24% had suicidal thoughts and 36% have developed depression.
You might be forgiven for thinking that this is solely due to homophobic bullying. It’s a huge agenda, with money and training being poured into stamping it out. It’s pretty much the only kind of bullying that is talked about and schools have to produce anti-bullying policies which specifically detail how homophobic and transphobic bullying will be dealt with. That’s the perspective from the adult liberal elite who dictate policy.
If you talk to young people themselves, they tell quite a different story. Ditch the Label produces a comprehensive annual survey conducted only amongst students. According to these figures, 50% of those bullied say it involves attitudes to their appearance; 19% say it relates to them getting high grades, and 14% say it’s because of household income. Only 4% report being bullied because of their sexuality. So you are far more likely to be bullied because of your body shape, for wearing glasses or for having red hair than whether you are gay or transgender. The agenda has, quite simply, been hijacked by LGBT rhetoric.
A quick view of the Stonewall website is telling. Repeatedly, it focuses on the inappropriate use of the word ‘gay’ which is common youth parlance, often used without sexual connotation. Does the misuse of the word constitute bullying? Not really. There’s a difference between teasing and using inappropriate language, and bullying: it’s important to know the difference. Bullying is prolonged, persistent and planned – it’s what 10% of young people experience daily and it isn’t confined to school. Recent research shows that cyber-bullying isn’t deployed as an alternative to more traditional forms; it’s actually used in addition. Nearly all students bullied in school are also subjected to cyber-bullying, leaving them scared and isolated 24/7, wherever they are.
There has been considerable press coverage recently of the increased risk of poor mental health and suicide in those bullied because of their sexual or gender orientation. Here too, the figures show that the same is true of all bullied children, regardless of the reason for the bullying. But yet again, the LGBT lobby dominates the agenda.
None of this helps – in fact, it causes real harm. About 86% of disabled children report being bullied on a regular basis, yet that doesn’t grab any headlines or provoke a flurry of policy documents at the DfE. To highlight just one reason for bullying is to create a hierarchy, clearly signalling to the disabled, to ethnic minorities, to those of religious faith or to those who don’t wear the ‘right’ clothes that their pain and suffering are less important than LGBT suffering.
According to official statistics, the incidence of homophobic and transphobic bullying has fallen over the last few years. No surprise there – the Hawthorne effect (of which DfE officials must surely be aware?) says that if you shine a huge spotlight on an issue over a period of time, you will effect a change simply by your intervention. But shining a spotlight creates deep shadow and that makes others more vulnerable, because bullying is a behaviour choice. If bullies can’t pick on one group of people in their school, they’ll simply pick on another. Logic dictates that if you’re going to get caught easily for choosing those in the spotlight, then you choose people in the shadows where you’re less likely to be seen. It isn’t about the reason they bully. It’s about being a bully.
If you are gay, or transgender, or coloured, or disabled, or have red hair, wear glasses, are clever or from a poor home, the reason why you are being bullied matters to you deeply, because it strikes at the heart of your identity. But to those dealing with bullying, the reason shouldn’t matter – what should matter is that so many people are suffering.
Solving the problem should begin in a wider society where bullying is endemic. Schools have a part to play, but it’s not down to schools alone to solve the problem. The liberal ideology which says that if we stamp it out in the young we will have a happy society with the next generation is rubbish. When children are faced with a conflict between words and actions, they always follow the actions. So using any amount of words in the classroom won’t stop some children becoming bullies because that is a model which they see in wider society, in their communities and, sadly, often in their own homes.
In his letter to the church in Galatia, the apostle Paul wrote, ‘There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female’ (Galatians 3:28). Genuine inclusivity doesn’t prioritise one group over another – it’s colour, race, gender, ability and social status blind. So if he was writing to a Christian teacher pondering on how to nurture an inclusive classroom, he might well have written, ‘There is neither gay nor straight, there is neither male nor female, there is neither black nor white, there is neither disabled nor able bodied, there is neither rich nor disadvantaged’. The key is ‘for you are all one’ which means that instead of creating hierarchies, we should be focusing on each individual as a person uniquely created in the image of God and deserving of equal respect regardless of heritage, culture, belief or ability. Only then can we create just, fair communities where a commitment to the common good renders bullying obsolete.