Schools eye gay-straight support groups

Peer supporters, from left, Ruby Lines, 16, Emily Wade, 16, Mokoia Pinker, 16, Ellie Spurlock, 15, and Michaela ...
SCOTT HAMMOND/ Fairfax NZ

Peer supporters, from left, Ruby Lines, 16, Emily Wade, 16, Mokoia Pinker, 16, Ellie Spurlock, 15, and Michaela Waite-Harvey, 16, are keen to set up gay-straight alliance groups at Marlborough’s three secondary schools.

Work is underway to set up gay-straight alliance groups at Marlborough's three secondary schools.

Marlborough Girls' College guidance counsellor Julie Saul said there were discussions at a peer support training camp over the weekend about setting up student-led support groups at Queen Charlotte College, Marlborough Boys' College and Marlborough Girls' College.

The groups would be open to students of all sexualities, Saul said.

There was still work to be done in Marlborough schools to help teenagers questioning their sexuality feel accepted, Saul said.

"I think schools are becoming more accepting but there's still language that is being used that is a put down to people who are not straight."

"For example, when people use the term, 'that's gay', it's not a compliment."

Teenagers were less likely to feel comfortable being themselves if their sexuality was not accepted at school, Saul said.

"It's an age where belonging with your peers is really important. If you feel that you are different, and different in a bad way, then it may affect your self-esteem."

"What's fantastic is that we've got young people that are prepared to stand up and say, 'I'm supporting people of all sexualities'."

"I think the more people who stand up, the safer and more inclusive our community becomes."

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Queen Charlotte College student Ruby Lines, 16, said she thought having a gay-straight alliance group at the school was a good idea.

"I think it's something that we need to do even if we are a small school so people feel comfortable enough to come out."

Marlborough Girls' College student Michaela Waite-Harvey, 16, said the group would provide a safe place within the school and help teenagers questioning their sexuality to connect.

"It's really important to have people in the same boat as you and know that you don't have to go through it alone."

An Auckland University survey found that the rate of "significant depressive symptoms" among sexual minority youth increased from 27 per cent to 41 per cent between 2001 and 2012.

The rate for heterosexual youth was steady at 11.4 per cent.

The study also found sexual minority youth experienced about three times the amount of bullying in school than heterosexual youth experienced.

Support websites: Curious - Don't Fit In. Stand Out. curious.org.nz, Rainbow Youth, ry.org.nz.

 - The Marlborough Express

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