Overview

A program in sexual health and relationships should work toward eliminating discrimination. It is important for teachers to be aware that students may identify with sexual orientations other than heterosexual. Teachers must be aware of their legal obligations in reference to discrimination and take responsibility for eliminating students' actions that are discriminatory, or are of a sexual harassment nature.

Eliminating discrimination

Schools should demonstrate that they are promoting gender equality and are proactively working towards eliminating sexual discrimination and harassment.

The rights of individuals should be upheld and everyone should be treated with:

  • respect

  • fairness

  • equality

  • dignity

Some teachers may experience difficulties dealing with the homophobic attitudes of students. It is essential that teachers address inappropriate comments that may arise when discussing values or ethical issues.

Successful strategies include:

  • Being prepared to respond to anti-gay, anti-lesbian or anti-bisexual slurs as would be done for racist or sexist slurs.

  • Being as well informed as possible. Respect the person challenging you. Focus on challenging the negative opinions rather than the person.

  • Not expecting to win or lose an encounter. You are there to say things that need to be heard. The main point is getting information across.

  • Avoiding a debate of religious arguments. Where a person has strongly held views it may be more productive to discuss sexuality issues in terms of how the person is feeling.

  • If students use derogatory expressions such as ‘homo', ‘poof', ‘leso' or ‘that's so gay', use the following approach in relation to the established class 'ground rules':

  1. Name the use of the terms as an issue. For example, "That comment is not appropriate. In our class the ground rules are .....".

  2. Refer to class ground rules established earlier, e.g. no put-downs

  3. Give the consequences that should have been established along with the class ground rules.

References

  1. Equal Opportunity Commission. Fact Sheets: Grounds of discrimination

This Teaching Note appears in the following Learning Activities: