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Urgent action needed as research reveals an alarming 73% of LGBTI+ students feel unsafe at school

Urgent action needed as research reveals an alarming 73% of LGBTI+ students feel unsafe at school


National school survey shows LGBTI+ students experience physical and sexual assault, harassment and abuse at school.

Tuesday, November 12th, 2019

BeLonG To Youth Services calls on the Minister of Education, Joe McHugh TD and second-level schools to take urgent action following the shocking results of the 2019 School Climate Survey. The research was released today to mark the 10th year of Stand Up Awareness Week – Ireland’s largest anti LGBTI+ bullying campaign.

Findings indicate that an alarming 73% of LGBTI+ students feel unsafe at school. Some 77% of LGBTI+ students experience verbal harassment (name calling or being threatened), 38% experience physical harassment (being shoved or pushed), and 11% experience physical assault (punched, kicked or injured with a weapon) based on their sexual orientation, gender or gender expression.

While 68% of LGBTI+ students stated they hear anti-LGBTI+ remarks from other students, a shocking 48% reported hearing homophobic remarks – and a further 55% reported hearing transphobic remarks – from teachers and staff members. As a result of feeling unsafe and unaccepted at school, LGBTI+ students are 27% more likely to miss school and 8% less likely to pursue third-level education.


Anonymous responses to the School Climate Survey include:

“I was sexually abused by the guys in the PE changing room age 14 to 17 on a weekly basis. They would slap my ass, put their fingers up my ass, grope me and pull at my penis. I was terrified of PE and this affected my attendance on PE days.”

“I told my friends I was gay in first year and they outed me to everyone. It was horrible. People scribbled slurs on my photos around the school and wrote a slur on my locker in marker. I told my teacher and she basically told me I shouldn’t have come out then, as if it was my choice in the first place.”

“When kids know you are trans they don’t see you as male or female or human. I am pretty much a one-man zoo. I can’t change this fact and I’m pretty suicidal because of it.”

“I was physically and verbally harassed while I was in school based on my sexual orientation and because I was more masculine than other girls. I got yelled at by one student who used dyke and lesbian in a negative way towards me, then repeatedly punched and kicked me while other students watched this happened on two occasions.”


Speaking at the launch, CEO of BeLonG To Youth Services Moninne Griffith says: This research must act as a wakeup call for the government, schools, politicians, parents and students. Minister for Education, Joe McHugh needs to take immediate action and prioritise the safety and wellbeing of LGBTI+ students who are seriously at risk. The government cannot continue to ignore the risk posed to LGBTI+ students – real political action is needed. This must stop now.

Despite misconceptions, growing up LGBTI+ isn’t all rainbows post-the marriage equality referendum. Our findings indicate the intense discrimination, harassment, isolation and stigma that LGBTI+ students experience in Ireland. Worse still, the research reveals that some staff members turn a blind eye to, and sometimes even contribute, anti-LGBTI+ remarks. What about the Ireland we voted for? This report paints a picture of an Ireland we had hoped had been left behind. We are better than this and we owe it to our LGBTI+ students to do better than this.

We are calling on the government to enforce the implementation of anti-bullying policies in schools and invest in teacher training to create the understanding and knowledge needed to support LGBTI+ students. As the School Climate Survey highlights, with the encouragement of one supportive adult, for example a teacher or guidance counsellor, LGBTI+ students feel a stronger sense of belonging in school and are less likely to feel isolation and discrimination. There are many schools in Ireland leading the way, creating safe and supportive spaces for their LGBTI+ students. We must follow their example and build a school system that values this and future generations of Irish children.


Author of the research, Professor Oren Pizmony-Levy of the Teachers College, Columbia University says: “As countries make progress with LGBT+ rights, we need to pay attention to schools where the next generation is learning to lead us toward a more equitable and inclusive world. Our findings show that, similar to other countries, schools in Ireland have much work to do. Research partnerships like this benefit higher education institutions, NGOs and LGBT+ youth we seek to serve. Documenting the experience of LGBT+ students is a critical first step toward ensuring that schools are welcoming to all students.”


About BeLonG To’s School Climate Survey

Conducted by BeLonG To Youth Services and Columbia University, this is the largest research sample of LGBTI+ young people in schools in Ireland ever. The final sample consisted of a total of 788 students between the ages of 13 and 20. Students were from all 26 counties in the Republic of Ireland and all four provinces. Participants had an average age of 15.9 years old. Half of the sample is female, about one-fifth is male (21.9%), with the rest choosing other gender identities (trans 12.4%, non-binary 7.8%). Two-fifths of the sample identify as bisexual (45.2%); one-quarter identify as gay; and one-fifth identify as lesbian (26.4% and 21.1% respectively). The rest identifies as queer, pansexual or questioning (17.1%, 15.4%, and 12.1% respectively). The 2019 School Climate Survey was conducted online from May to August 2019.



Notes to editors

  • BeLonG To CEO, Moninne Griffith is available for interview. To arrange an interview, please contact: Sinead Keane, Communications Manager. Mobile: 087 768 0389   Email:
  • Download the key findings and the full report at
  • Photos will be distributed to your picture desk by Maxwell Photography following the event on November 12th: 01 830 8072/
  • Stand Up Awareness Week runs from November 11th-15th, 2019. BeLonG To Youth Services has distributed Stand Up Awareness Week Resource Packs and Posters to all second-level schools in Ireland. To access these free resources including curricular based activity ideas, visit
  • BeLonG To Youth Services BeLonG To Youth Services is a national organisation supporting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex young people. Since 2003, BeLonG To has worked with LGBTI+ young people to create a world where they are equal, safe and valued in the diversity of their identities and experiences. The organisation advocates and campaigns on behalf of young LGBTI+ people and offers a specialised LGBTI+ youth service including crisis counselling, information and the provision of LGBTI+ youth groups across Ireland. BeLonG To supports educators and schools across Ireland. Stand Up Awareness Week is an opportunity for educators and schools across Ireland to avail of teacher training and second level school resources. BeLonG To’s Safe and Supportive Schools initiative supports second-level schools by helping them create environments that are fully inclusive of LGBTI+ identities.