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Church of England to tackle homophobia in its schools

Guidance urges ‘zero-tolerance approach’ to homophobia: Archbishop of Canterbury

“The guidance will urge schools to take a zero-tolerance approach to the victimisation and diminishment of young people through homophobic language or behaviour,” the Archbishop of Canterbury writes. Credit: archbishopofcanterbury.org

“After a huge amount of work over the past nine months, today we are launching new guidance for our schools on challenging homophobic bullying, called ‘Valuing  All God’s Children,’” Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby writes in The Independent May 11.

Citing statistics that demonstrate the negative consequences anti-gay discrimination has on students’ well-being and performance, Welby says the guidance aims to “protect pupils in church schools from having their self-worth diminished, and their ability to achieve impeded, by being bullied because of their perceived or actual sexual orientation.”

Welby adds, “Under the new guidance our school inspectors will specifically look at how effectively schools are tackling homophobic bullying. Recognising the profound damage done by words and actions alike, the guidance will urge schools to take a zero-tolerance approach to the victimisation and diminishment of young people through homophobic language or behaviour — which is absolutely anathema to Christian practice.”

But Welby notes that the guidance is not meant to preclude the church’s teaching about issues including marriage. 

“Another challenge for church schools — which must be faced head on — is the complexity of combating homophobic bullying while still teaching the traditional Anglican view of marriage, especially in the light of the revolutionary change to its legal definition for the accommodation of same-sex couples,” Welby states.

The guidance will also not provide lesson plans or resources for personal, social, health and economic education (PSHE) or sex education. “Sexuality is a highly sensitive and complex aspect of our humanity, of course, and church schools face particular challenges in this area. At every church school there will be a wide spectrum of beliefs, and this must be acknowledged and respected,” Welby writes.

One of the goals of the new guidelines is to ensure schools are environments where students can hold different beliefs and opinions but are encouraged to “respectfully disagree” when values conflict.

“The point is that there is room for everyone in the tent, but there is no room for behaviours which cause harm to others,” Welby says.