Education policy and bullying in schools

PhD student, Tiffany Jones from La Trobe University’s Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society (ARCSHS) has been invited to present findings from her thesis at UNESCO’s first International Consultation on Homophobic Bullying in Educational Institutions on 6-9 December in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Tiffany JonesThe thesis highlights significant correlations between policy and a variety of wellbeing outcomes for GLBTIQ students, including the creation of supportive school environments and lowered incidence of homophobic abuse and suicide.

‘My thesis findings on the importance of policy can be used throughout Australia and internationally to promote the value of anti-homophobia policies in education and to change the state(s) of sexuality education messages, social and structural supports in schools for the better,’ says Ms. Jones.

‘Structural support and resources like posters, library books and referral services as well as equity at events like school formals, are all factors that contribute towards the creation of a supportive and safer school setting.’

Ms Jones will be consulting with UNESCO on Australian education policies around homophobia and how these lead to decreased negative outcomes for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex students.

‘My research particularly highlights the importance of distinct policy documents that directly mention homophobia and GLBTIQ issues using  ‘safe and supportive schools’ and ‘anti-discrimination’ frameworks, such as the policies at the state-level in the Victorian government education sector.’

‘Educational institutions should not rely on general anti-bullying policies or broad inclusion statements to tackle this issue; these are simply too vague to highlight and combat systemic homophobia. With kids getting abused and self-harming because of homophobia, a strong clear message that this should not be happening must be sent through policy in every sector and school,’ says Ms Jones.

 ‘Over a third of Australian students may find GLBTIQ-themed sexuality messages personally relevant, with many young people engaging in same sex sexual acts regardless of their sexual identities.’

The research behind this thesis showed that policy protection against homophobia reduces homophobic physical and verbal abuse, suicide risk and self harm for students at risk of the damaging impacts of homophobia in schools.

‘As young people who do declare a same sex attracted or gender diverse identity began to ‘come out’ earlier in life over the last decade, homophobic abuse in schools has increased in response and this needs to be addressed on a global level,’ says Ms Jones.

Gaining financial support from the gay media, UNESCO, benefactors and La Trobe, Ms Jones will be discussing best practice for policy on homo-phobic bullying on an international scale.

‘I have received a lot of support to attend this conference and managed to find funding for the entire trip. Being a PhD student, I can only do minimal paid work so the additional assistance has been greatly appreciated and shows that the community supports the need to tackle bullying in schools.’

Reflecting on data from interviews with key policy informants, a survey of over 3,000 students and policy analysis of over 80 documents, Ms Jones will outline both the obstacles to affirming policies, and how such obstacles have been overcome in parts of Australian education.

Such policy is also related to the promotion of progressive sexuality education messages in classrooms addressing homophobia, sexual autonomy, sexual experimentation and even ‘heterosexual’ information.

‘I am hoping to show UNESCO and the represented countries the value of anti-homophobia policies at the state and school level.’

‘It is clear that there are links between supportive school environments, supportive policies for GLBTIQs and supportive sexuality messages. Good sexuality education for GLBTIQ students is good for the school community.’

The thesis—Sexual Subjects: GLBTIQ Student Subjectivities in Australian Education Policy—was conducted with supervisor Dr Lynne Hillier, ARCSHS.


For more information or to arrange an interview please contact:

Meghan Lodwick

La Trobe University Communications Officer
T:  03 9479 5353 M:  0418 495 941 E: