Chief’s guide for LGBT pupils

Mirvis pro­duces ‘mile­stone’ guide­lines he hopes will have a last­ing im­pact on re­duc­ing threat to pupils

The Jewish Chronicle - - FRONT PAGE - BY SI­MON ROCKER

CHIEF RABBI Ephraim Mirvis has this week pub­lished ground-break­ing guid­ance for Ortho­dox schools on their duty of care to LGBT+ pupils.

He says schools must adopt ro­bust poli­cies to pre­vent bul­ly­ing and be equipped to of­fer pas­toral sup­port with sen­si­tiv­ity and un­der­stand­ing.

His 36-page book­let, The Well­be­ing of LGBT+ Pupils, has been pro­duced with in­put from LGBT+ Jews and with the sup­port of KeshetUK, the or­gan­i­sa­tion which pro­motes equal­ity on their be­half within the Jewish com­mu­nity,.

Ortho­dox Jewish schools, Rabbi Mirvis em­pha­sises, “can and must be a safe haven for all chil­dren and teens, a place where ev­ery pupil can feel nur­tured and pro­tected”.

Com­ment­ing on its pub­li­ca­tion, the Chief Rabbi said he be­lieved the doc­u­ment was “an ex­tremely sig­nif­i­cant mile­stone and will have a real and last­ing im­pact on re­duc­ing harm to LGBT+ Jews across the Ortho­dox Jewish com­mu­nity.

“Our chil­dren need to know that at school, at home and in the com­mu­nity, they will be loved and pro­tected re­gard­less of their sex­u­al­ity or gen­der iden­tity.”

Dalia Flem­ing, KeshetUK ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor, said the or­gan­i­sa­tion was proud of its in­volve­ment in the pro­ject and now looked for­ward “to work­ing with schools, rab­bis and ed­u­ca­tors across Jewish com­mu­ni­ties, sup­port­ing them to im­ple­ment this guide so they can en­sure their LGBT+ stu­dents reach their po­ten­tial, free from ho­mo­pho­bic, bi­pho­bic and trans­pho­bic bul­ly­ing, dis­crim­i­na­tion and fear”.

In his in­tro­duc­tion, the Chief Rabbi paid trib­ute to the or­gan­i­sa­tion, which had been “to­tally re­spect­ful of To­rah val­ues, never seek­ing to un­der­mine or con­tra­dict any is­surim (pro­hi­bi­tions)) or im­por­tant ar­eas of hashkafa (re­li­gious out­look).”

He con­sid­ered it an obli­ga­tion to pro­vide di­rec­tion to schools be­cause too of­ten harm had been caused.

While not all LGBT+ stu­dents suf­fered from bul­ly­ing, it was “clear that many do,” the guide states. Any­one who doubts “there are young LGBT+ peo­ple in our schools who have been left feel­ing so iso­lated that their very lives are in dan­ger, has sim­ply failed to grasp the re­al­ity con­fronting some of our stu­dents”.

School poli­cies should carry an ex­plicit com­mit­ment to the “wel­fare of LGBT+ pupils” and all staff should have at least a ba­sic un­der­stand­ing of this.

The guide sets out a num­ber of To­rah val­ues which should un­der­pin its ap­proach such as tak­ing care of the way one’s speaks to oth­ers.

“The strug­gle to un­der­stand one’s sex­ual iden­tity is par­tic­u­larly chal­leng­ing at sec­ondary school. Pupils who are LGBT+ have par­tic­u­lar strug­gles, and more so within faith schools,” the guide says.

“Gen­der roles are as­sumed, het­ero­sex­ual re­la­tion­ships are talked about and those whose sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion is

It is clear that many stu­dents suf­fer from bul­ly­ing’

Chief Rabbi Mirvis and marchers at last year’s Pride event in Lon­don

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