HBT Bullying: A Teacher’s Guide

What is HBT Bullying ?

HBT stands for Homophobic, Biphobic and Transphobic.  HBT Bullying is defined as the persecution or harassment of people perceived to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, irrespective of their actual sexual orientation or gender identity.

Just as with other types of bullying, HBT bullying can be physical, verbal or indirect. Often it is specific language that can distinguish it from other forms of bullying.

Anyone, irrespective of their actual sexual orientation or gender identity, can become a victim of homophobic bullying, including:

  • teenagers who have misjudged their best friend by confiding in them, only to find themselves outed
  • heterosexual girls and boys who others believe may be lesbian or gay
  • children of a lesbian or gay parent can often be vulnerable to homophobic abuse from peers should their family situation become known
  • friends of lesbian and gay young people are frequently targets of homophobia by being guilty by association
  • brothers and sisters of homophobically bullied siblings
  • school staff

Why is HBT Anti-bullying important?

Students’ self-esteem is often severely affected if they’re the victim of HBT Bullying and, as a result, their academic potential may not be fulfilled.  This can be caused, in part, by students inability to participate in lessons appropriately due to feelings of fear or anger. 

Young people, whose fears and confusions are not adequately dealt with in their youth, can go on to develop problems in adulthood, including depressive disorders or dependencies upon alcohol and drugs.

It’s not being gay/bi/trans that makes HBT Bullying victims unhappy, it’s the negative reaction of other people and fear of discrimination, name calling or being physically attacked because of their sexuality or gender identity.  There is a risk that victims of homophobic bullying may be driven to self-harm and suicide.

You can download our HBT anti-bullying resources here.

What are the facts?

The School Report in 2012, found that:

• 55% of lesbian, gay and bisexual students have experienced homophobic bullying.

• Only half of lesbian, gay and bisexual students report that their schools say homophobic bullying is wrong.

The Teachers Report 2014, found that:

• Nine in ten (86 per cent) secondary school teachers say children and young people, regardless of their sexual orientation, experience homophobic bullying.

Metro Youth Chances 2014 found:

• 83% of trans young people say they have experienced name-calling and 35% have experienced physical attacks.

• 32% of trans young people say they have missed lessons due to discrimination or fear of discrimination.

• 27% of trans young people have attempted suicide.

What does the law say?

Equality Act 2010
The public sector Equality Duty requires all schools in England to eliminate discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender reassignment.

Education and Inspections Act 2006
Schools have a duty to promote the safety and well-being of all children and young people in their care, including those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans and those experiencing homophobic, biphobic or transphobic bullying.

Ofsted inspectors are explicitly directed to look at a schools’ efforts to tackle bullying based on sexual orientation and gender identity. They may also look at how the school supports the needs of distinct groups of students, such as lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans students.

What are the dos and don’ts?


  • Celebrate difference in all its many forms. 
  • Use your PSHE education curriculum to equip students with the knowledge, understanding, skills and attributes they need to keep themselves and others safe from bullying.
  • Genuinely care about the wellbeing of all children and young people. All forms of prejudice should be tackled – and that includes verbal comments and harmful attitudes related to sexuality and gender.
  • Use every incident of bullying as an opportunity to learn or do something differently. Consider what needs to change for everyone in your school to feel valued and supported.
  • Involve the whole community.   Make sure that students, parents and carers, staff and the wider community all know that you take a strong position when it comes to tackling bullying of all kinds, including HBT. 
  • Know where to get advice. Find out what local services are available for HBT+ young people and staff in your local area and share this information.


  • Assume you know what’s going on.  There is so much in schools that goes on under the radar.  You could survey students and staff on how they feel about school – including how inclusive the environment is and whether or not it keeps all students – and staff safe.
  • Assume that all students are heterosexual in RSHE lessons. This won’t reflect the families that your students come from – and will alienate young people that have other plans or desires. All young people need to be given the language and tools they need to enjoy positive and safe relationships.  
  • Ask children to alter their behaviour.  It is simply not a solution for children to act more ‘straight’. Young people must be supported to be comfortable in their own skin.
  • Make it impossible to access information.  We know why schools install software to restrict what students can access online but this can make it difficult for students and staff to access information and advice that they might desperately need.

What else can schools do ?

Set Ground Rules
Schools that explicitly state that HBT bullying is wrong experience lower levels of HBT bullying. The first step is to update the school’s anti-bullying policy, making it clear that your school welcomes every student and stating that HBT is unacceptable.

Keep track of incidents
Recording and monitoring HBT bullying helps identify any problem areas across the school, identifying where best to target support and practical initiatives designed to tackle HBT bullying.  When an incident occurs, pupils should be informed that homophobic language is offensive, and will not be tolerated.

Support LGBT young people
Schools that actively and openly support LGBT students are less likely to see HBT bullying. This can be done in two key ways; making information and resources on LGBT issues available in school and, making sure that all students are aware that they can use school services for help and advice on LGBT issues.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *