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DepEd moves to strengthen protections for LGBT students

The Department of Education has released guidelines for the implementation of its newly-developed gender-responsive  basic education or GRBE policy, which includes strengthened protections for students who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT).

This came a week after the United States-based advocacy group Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a report detailing the persistent abuse and bullying that Filipino LGBT students experience in their respective schools and communities.

In explaining the rationale for the GRBE, DepEd mentioned that “there is a high prevalence of violence against children among both boys and girls” and that contrary to popular belief, an increasing number of boys are becoming victims of sexual abuse too.

DepEd then went on to emphasize that LGBT youth and children are vulnerable to sexual harassment committed by their peers and that they are at higher risk for physical and psychological bullying.

This echoes the observation of HRW that “widespread bullying and harassment, discriminatory policies and practices, and an absence of supportive resources undermine the right to education under international law and put LGBT youth at risk.”

DepEd policy on LGBT students

The Department of Education moves to strengthen protections for LGBT students (Credits: www.twitter.com/mmprideorg)

Under DepEd’s new framework on gender-responsive education, the LGBT Pride Month will be celebrated in schools every June. It also calls for the establishment of a VAWC or Violence Against Women and their Children desk in each school.

DepEd likewise mandated the creation of the following in all levels of DepEd governance, from the national down to the school-level: a Complaint or Grievance Committee, a Committee on Decorum and Investigation, and a Child Protection Committee. This is necessary because as HRW pointed out, “Many students were not aware of anti-bullying policies or did not know where to seek help if they were persistently bullied.”

In recognition of the need to thoroughly cascade the importance of gender-responsiveness to all education stakeholders,  DepEd now calls for the integration of issues related to GRBE in the development of textbooks and other learning materials, in classroom discussions, lesson planning and delivery, test construction, institutional training programs, among others. The department also articulated its desire to strengthen the provision of sexual and reproductive health care services in every school.

Another problem highlighted by the HRW in its report is that “virtually none of the students (they) interviewed had received LGBT-inclusive sexuality education, leaving them ill-equipped to navigate relationships and keep themselves safe.”

DepEd also calls for the observance of gender-responsiveness in staffing decisions. In theory, this means that no applicant for a position within DepEd can be rejected just because of his or her sexual orientation. Also, this cannot be used as a basis for denying tenure or promotion. The department likewise aims to further train its staffers on issues related to gender-responsiveness.

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