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Tasmania Embraces Gay Students

By Rex Wockner
International News Report

tasmania.gif - 5.48 KThe Education Department of the Australian state of Tasmania has rescinded a ban on school-based discussions or displays related to homosexuality and launched a series of projects designed to make gay students feel welcome.

"There have been some disturbing incidences of harassment and victimization of students based on their sexuality," said Education Minister Paula Wreidt. "We want to send a clear message out to other people that this is not acceptable at all, that children have the right to attend schools in an environment which is free of harassment."

pwredit.gif - 3.62 K Paula Wreidt Among other moves, the department will distribute sexuality reference cards listing support services for gay youth, stock comprehensive material on homosexuality and homophobia, and issue guidelines on usage of non-discriminatory language (e.g., saying "partner" rather than "husband" or "wife").

"In the past, the Education Department has actually banned any discussion of homosexuality in the classroom, but thanks to today's initiatives, Tasmania is now at the cutting edge of creating safe school communities for a range of minorities including young gays and lesbians," commented Rodney Croome, spokesman for the Tasmanian Gay and Lesbian Rights Group.

A recent University of Tasmania study found that 94 percent of young Tasmanian gay men have experienced anti-gay verbal or physical abuse and that gay youth are two-and-a-half times more likely to seriously consider suicide than are their straight peers. Another study, conducted by Elizabeth College, found that eight percent of students are gay, lesbian or bisexual and that 16 percent of students have harassed homosexuals.

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