Fully registered teachers demonstrate commitment to promoting the well-being of ākonga/learners.
- Take all reasonable steps to provide and maintain a teaching and learning environment that is physically, socially, culturally, and emotionally safe.
- Acknowledge and respect the languages, heritages, and cultures of all ākonga/learners.
Of all my roles and responsibilities around the school, it is my role as Dean and the focus on promoting the well-being of all students that I have become most passionate about. This includes all students of different backgrounds, and most important in promoting their well-being is promoting acceptance, diversity and tolerance.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students are over-represented in a range of statistics centred around the well-being of teenagers. This includes over-representation in depression rates, self-harm and suicide. Therefore it is essential that we as a school provide structures and support for students at risk of adding to these statistics. In the research and anecdotally, school can be a terrible place to come out: the fear of rejection, the lack of maturity and understanding and the threat of homophobia can make the process so difficult. It is all very well to use the mantra ‘it gets better‘ (because it does), but what schools have to do is make it better.
With the support of colleagues we have established a gay and lesbian support group and gained membership through the guidance counsellor and other supportive staff members. After working with these students in regular meetings where GLBTI issues could be discussed without judgement or stigmas, we made the next step – advertising in assembly. Below is our presentation, which represents a major step in supporting students dealing with questioning their sexuality.
At the beginning of the year I was born, 1987, it was illegal to be gay in New Zealand. Anyone found to be a homosexual could be imprisoned. By the end of 1987, this had changed. 10 years ago when I was 16, sitting in school assemblies, I never heard anyone talk about gay or lesbian people. Today, it’s quite clear that this has changed too.
At the beginning of last year 2013, no gay couple had the right to be married, to adopt a child together, and this has also changed. Today is a completely different world. There are gay and lesbian people everywhere, and it is normal.
Consider English cricketer Steven Davies, Labour Deputy Leader Grant Robinson; NZ author Witi Ihimeira, Welsh International rugby player Gareth Thomas; Big Bang theory’s Sara Gilbert, ex world no 1 tennis star Amelie Mauresmo; renowned artist Frida Kahlo, NZ TV news presenter Alison Mau; Morning DJ on The Edge Mike Peru, Hunger Games star who recently said he wouldn’t rule out dating a guy Josh Hutchinson; Ricky Martin, NBA basketball player Jason Collins; Ian McKellen, Adam Lambert, Ellen DeGeneres, Cara Delevinge; Jesse Tyler Fergussen, Chris Colfer… bisexual women such as Drew Barrymore, Christina Aguliera, and Angelina Jolie; Neil Patrick Harris, Tamati Coffey, T R Knight, Ellen Page, Portia De Rossi, Jane Lynch, And we’ve only just scratched the surface.
At Newlands College we want to be supportive of every member of our school. And for people that know that they are gay, lesbian or bisexual, for people that are questioning their sexuality or for people that want to understand more about this, we want to support you too.
Our message to you today is simple. You are not alone. Our world today is filled with visible people, some of whom you’ve just seen on the screen, who have gone through the same feelings you are going through now. These people are on the Internet, in the news, on the TV, in your communities, your neighbourhoods, they may be in your homes, your families, they are in your classrooms, in this assembly hall, and they are speaking to you now today.
Statistically speaking, about one in 10 people all over the world are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender and therefore statistically speaking, there are 96 students in this school who are or someday will be dealing with this issue. We want those students to know that they are safe here.
We stand here today proudly representing these people and offering our support to anyone else who is in need of it. If you do identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual, or you are questioning your sexuality then support is here.
A support group has been running for almost a year now. This group has been formed from people that have already identified that they are dealing with these issues. If you want to find out more about this group, approach one of us, Mr Pegram, or make an appointment with Ms Montgomery the guidance counsellor. Or approach any teacher you know well…
Finally, no matter what it is that makes you different, whatever it is that makes you unique, whatever it is that makes you stand out from the crowd, be proud of who you are. Don’t let anyone tell you that have to be something or somebody that you are not. Celebrate the diversity of our school, our society and stand up for accepting one another for who we are. Gay, straight; tall, short; just be proud to be yourself.