One in twenty LGBTQIA+ students has been physically assaulted because of their sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, or sexual characteristics Vísir reports. This was among the findings of a recent survey conducted by Samtökin 78, the National Queer Association of Iceland, on the wellbeing of LGBTQIA+ youth in schools.
“We need to do a lot better when it comes to LGBTQIA+ young people,” stated Tótla I. Sæmundsdóttir, Educational Director of Samtökin 78. “They endure physical harassment, verbal assault, and physical assault in schools.”
A third of students surveyed reported feeling unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation. A quarter of respondents said that they skipped school at least once in the previous month and a third avoid locker rooms and physical education classes in general due to feelings of discomfort or unsafety.
Just under 46% of respondents said that school staff never intervene when verbal slurs or degrading terms are directed at LGBTQIA+ students in their presence. It is fellow students, says Tótla, who tend to intervene on the part of their LGBTQIA+ peers. But this inaction on the part of teachers and school staff sends the message that such language and conduct towards LGBTQIA+ students is acceptable within the school environment.
The first step in correcting this state of affairs is, says Tótla, better education. “We want education for students and education for teachers. We want LGBTQIA+ students to be better safeguarded at school.”
“We also want to see educational materials that reflect their realities and society,” concluded Tótla. “[Students] reported in the study that there is little to no course material that reflects LGBTQIA+ people in a positive light.”