Saturday, 3 March 2012

Gay-Straight Alliance Club

The Guardian carries a wonderfully uplifting story today concerning Copland community school in Wembley which imports US model in which gay and straight pupils join forces to tackle discrimination. 

The Guardian notes that: 'In the US, where there are such clubs in more than 4,000 high schools, the alliances support gay pupils, creating an environment where they can socialise with straight friends and work together against discrimination. At the London school, the alliance was the brainchild of sixth-former Kimberley Duah, 18, who ran for election as head girl pledging to set one up.'

For me, the most powerful aspect of the story is that posters in the school were initially ripped down.  This has result in ladders now being used to place the posters higher.  Too often these initiatives can be an opportunity for an organisation to tick another box, to appear able to say "look at us, we're brilliant" but the ripping down of these posters  -and the continued need to place them high on the walls - serves to evidence the very real need for this group.  It's not just some PR exercise, or media stunt.  It is a positive and very real attempt to address what is clearly an environment in which homophobic attitudes continue to be evident.  Things seem to be starting to change in the school which is to be welcomed and how wonderful that these bright kids have taken ownership of the problem and sought to lead a solution.

Nonetheless, there are evidently challenges ahead.  Although the school indicates they have had no complaints from parents etc, the Guardian piece does note that the school is located 'in an area with a substantial south Asian population, many children's views are shaped by the religious beliefs of their parents.'  This raises questions about the course schools are on in tackling homophobia and the potential challenge that may well come at some point from groups arguing that their religious freedom is being infringed.  A long culture war continues to stretch before us.

Read the full Guardian piece here.

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