The Church of England has published an updated version of Valuing All God’s Children: Guidance for Church of England schools on challenging homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying. The accompanying press release explains that the updated guidance
“aims to prevent pupils from having their self-worth diminished or their ability to achieve impeded by being bullied because of their perceived or actual sexual orientation or gender identity.
The report makes 12 recommendations for schools including ensuring schools’ Christian ethos statements offer ‘an inclusive vision for education’ where ‘every child should be revered and respected as members of a community where all are known and loved by God.’
Clear anti-bullying policies should include HBT behaviours and language, policies on how to report incidences should be accessible, staff trained on recognising bullying, curriculum and collective worship should support the vision and the wider church ensure that schools are responding well to the guidance.
Commending the report, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said: ‘All bullying, including homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying causes profound damage, leading to higher levels of mental health disorders, self-harm, depression and suicide. Central to Christian theology is the truth that every single one of us is made in the image of God. Every one of us is loved unconditionally by God. This guidance helps schools to offer the Christian message of love, joy and celebration of our humanity without exception or exclusion.’ “
The report says that children should be able to play with “the many cloaks of identity” without being labelled or bullied – “sometimes quite literally with the dressing-up box”. Nursery and primary school, in particular, is a time of “creative exploration”, where young people should be able to pick a tutu, tiara and heels – or a helmet, tool belt and superhero cloak – “without expectation or comment”.
The press release further notes that the report acknowledges that it is likely that not all will agree on issues to do with human sexuality, marriage or gender identity: however, “there needs to be a faithful and loving commitment to remain in relationship with the other and honour the dignity of their humanity without ‘back turning’, dismissing the other person, or claiming superiority”.