Scotland just stood up to protect its LGTBQ youth in a big way.
All state schools are now required to teach lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex rights, effective immediately, the BBC reports. Education Secretary John Swinney says Scotland is the first country in the world to implement such a law.
The mandatory curriculums will include LGTBQ terminologies, dealing with homophobia and prejudice, navigating the LGTBQ identity, and the history of LGTBQ equalities and movements.
Swinney said doing so would help promote understanding and inclusion among the student body, according to the BBC.
The Time for Inclusive Education (TIE) organization campaigned for the change for three years and advised the government on how to implement the new curriculum. TIE called the news a "historic moment for our country" — the government accepted all of their recommendations to improve children's’ school experiences.
The organization suggested better guidance and training for teachers on LGTBQ issues, school inspections of LGTBQ inclusion and documentation of any bullying that occurs within its doors.
We did it! @JohnSwinney has announced that @scotgov has fully accepted the recommendations of the LGBTI Inclusive Education Working Group.— TIE (@tiecampaign) November 8, 2018
This is a monumental victory. LGBTI-inclusive education will now become a reality in all of Scotland’s state schools #EducatetoLiberatepic.twitter.com/sLgYikCANw
Not everyone is pleased about the shift. The Christian Institute told the BBC, "controversial political agendas" should not be integrated into the curriculum. Simon Calver, the deputy director of the Christian Institute, said LGBT politics should not be mixed in with academics. Calver is concerned religious and nonreligious families will worry about the extent of the initiative.
"There is already a great deal of emphasis on LGBT issues in schools. Perhaps the time and money would be better spent trying to improve education for everyone, instead of promoting LGBT politics,” he said.
While Scotland receives praise for ranking as one of the best countries in Europe for legal protections for LGTBQ people, that hasn’t always been the case. It was illegal to “intentionally promote homosexuality” in Scotland’s schools under the “Section 28 rule” between 1988 and 2000. The law was repealed in Scotland in 2001, and the rest of the UK two years later, according to the Guardian.
"Our education system must support everyone to reach their full potential. That is why it is vital the curriculum is as diverse as the young people who learn in our schools,” Swinney said of Scotland’s new push toward equality.
Research shows LGTBQ youth are especially vulnerable at school. Students who are exposed to bullying and harassment because of their sexual orientation or gender, are at risk of missing more class, having lower GPAs, receiving more school discipline, and having decreased rates of college or other post-high school pans, according to UCLA’s Williams Institute.
A study conducted for TIE found that nine in 10 LGTBQ Scots experience homophobia at school, and 27% attempted suicide after being bullied, according to the Guardian. The study also found there was not much understanding in schools about prejudice against people with intersex bodies.
"Education is one of the most vital tools we have to tackle bullying, prejudice and discrimination — and it shapes the fabric of our society. We now look forward to continuing our work with the Scottish Government as we progress towards full implementation,” Daly said.
LGTBQ students who attend schools with anti-bullying or anti-discrimination policies that include sexual orientation and gender identity experience less anti-LGBTQ victimization than LGTBQ youth at schools without those protections, according to the organization GLSEN.
As the LGTBQ community continues to be the target of persecution and violence around the world, Scotland hopes to lead by example.
"The implementation of LGBTI inclusive education across all state schools is a world first, and in a time of global uncertainty, this sends a strong and clear message to LGBTI young people that they are valued here in Scotland,” TIE campaign co-founder Jordan Daly said.