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 homophobic, transphobic and intersexphobic 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. Exploring attitudes and values is about presenting different viewpoints and getting people to think about their own set of values. 

  • 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 'group agreement':

  1. Name the use of the terms as an issue. For example, "You may not have meant to be hurtful, but when you say, 'that is so gay', you are saying that being gay is bad or stupid and that is hurtful and homophobic. Language like this is unacceptable, there are many other ways to express your feelings about something without being disrespectful and hurtful to others.".

  2. Remind the student that we all agreed to the group agreement which says ...(e.g. no put-downs; be respectful; etc)

  3. In some circumstances, there may be school procedures to follow when discriminatory behaviour has occurred. 


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

This teaching note appears in the following learning activities: