Workplace discrimination against LGBTIQ teachers “widespread”, study finds

Workplace discrimination against LGBTIQ teachers is relatively widespread, taking its greatest toll on psychological wellbeing, according to a study conducted jointly by Western Sydney University and the NSW Teachers Federation.

Of the just-over 1000 LGBTIQ teachers who participated, 42 per cent reported experiences of LGBTIQ bias-based harassment, discrimination or disadvantage, Dr Jacqueline Ullman told Federation’s Annual Conference on Tuesday.

The most commonly reported instances involved discriminatory comments from school staff and students. Only one quarter of participants said they had reported these incidents to supervisors or other senior staff, and only 8 per cent of participating teachers said that reporting these instances led to a satisfactory outcome.

Dr Ullman also noted that teachers who were “further away from metropolitan environments… were more likely to report this biased based discrimination”.

Other forms of reported discrimination included bullying behaviours, denial of professional opportunities, and lack of school support. “[Teachers] spoke about the challenges to be out or not at school and the significant impacts of this decision. Some spoke about feeling as if their credibility could be called into question by members of the school community,” Dr Ullman said.

The greatest impact of these experiences is on teachers’ psychological wellbeing, with those experiencing discrimination from a supervisor or executive teacher experiencing the most severe effects. One third of participants sought external support to assist in coping with these effects.

The study suggests that the Department of Education needs a clear statement on inclusivity of LGBTIQ people, wellbeing policies that overtly acknowledge LGBTIQ identities, and training for school leadership personnel in the area of gender and sexuality diversity.

Federation President Maurie Mulheron described the current situation as unacceptable. “The Department has a responsibility to provide safe and supportive workplaces for all teachers, and this study indicates that current teacher wellbeing policies do not sufficiently account for the specific needs of LGBTIQ staff.”

The research was commissioned by the NSW Teachers Federation, arising from the union’s LGBTIQ Special Interest Group, which recognised ongoing anecdotal reports of inappropriate conduct in schools.

Federation will be seeking to address this issue with the Department in the immediate future.