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Many schools failing to promote own LGBT consultation services: survey

The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology is seen in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward on July 26, 2018. (Mainichi)

Almost 70 percent of elementary and junior high schools that have consultation programs for LGBT or other sexual minority children or staff capable of offering such services did not inform their pupils or students about their own guidance systems, according to a university study.

This situation found by a research team of Shizuoka University of Science and Technology in the city of Fukuroi in the central Japan prefecture of Shizuoka runs counter to an instruction from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology that schools across the nation should improve their LGBT consultation programs.

Associate professor Akio Honda, who conducted the survey with his research team, sees the result as a reflection of a lack of support for frontline teachers who need knowledge and experience in offering such consultations.

In 2015 the education ministry instructed boards of education throughout Japan to form teachers' support teams that can advise sexual minority children. The ministry did cite efforts by individual schools such as offering a choice of uniforms matching a child's sexual identity or introducing toilets for either sex, but has not provided teachers with detailed guidelines on how to support LGBT kids.

The Shizuoka university team sent questionnaires to 5,500 randomly selected elementary and junior high schools about their programs to support sexual minority children. Two sets of questions were asked -- one about school-wide measures and the other on programs for specific students. Of the elementary schools, 831, or 22 percent, responded to both questions, while 495 and 500 junior highs, or 28 percent each, answered the first and second questions, respectively.

When asked about school-wide programs in the first set of questions, 660 elementary schools, or 79 percent of the respondents, said that they have staff members capable of offering consultations for LGBT and other sexual minority children. The figure was 441, or 89 percent, among junior high schools. However, 69 percent of those schools, or 466 elementary and 296 junior highs, did not inform pupils and students about the existence of such staff.

As much as 80 percent of responding schools answered that school officials and teachers share the understanding that they should offer special consideration for sexual minority children. But only 220 elementary and 103 junior highs that responded, or 26 percent and 21 percent respectively, said they conducted training sessions on that subject for their staff members.

Meanwhile, the elimination of different treatment of children by sex, such as student lists not divided between boys and girls or the use of sex-neutral honorifics, differed substantially between elementary and junior high schools.

When asked about programs for specific students and pupils, more than 50 percent of the elementary schools that responded said they accept choices of hairdos and outfits based on the children's sexual identities, while the figure was between 30 and less than 40 percent among junior highs. This is because children enter puberty during junior high years and sexual differentiation tends to get stronger.

Associate professor Honda says elementary and junior high school students begin to realize their sexual orientations and sexual minorities among them tend to become targets of bullying or stop attending schools, adding that teachers and other school staff should try to be supportive of such children.

(Japanese original by Nanami Kako, Kofu Bureau)

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