dutch lgbt policy in education 2001-2014

This article gives an overview of Dutch national and some local policies on sexual diversity in the education sector.

the start of a coherent lgbt education policy

Since 2001, the Netherlands has an active national policy on sexual diversity in education. The APS (a national school support institute) was designated to design a portal to provide access to relevant information, and did so with the website www.gayandschool.nl.
Between 2001 and 2005, a large number of pilot projects in schools were tendered for approximately € 2 million, which were conducted under the direction of COC Netherlands and EduDivers (then called Empowerment). In 2006, COC Netherlands broke the partnership with EduDivers because they (only) wanted to focus on the empowerment of LGBT youth and on peer-education by volunteers, next to the political integration (advocacy) of sexual diversity in schools.

creation of a national mainstreaming alliance

In 2008, the new (progressive) government decided to intensify LGBT emancipation, which included to create a nationwide Education Alliance to mobilize the education sector (mainstreaming). This Education Alliance for Sexual Diversity was led by a project team consisting of AOb (Public Schools Trade Union), CNV Education (Christian School Trade Union), CBOO (a network for public education schools), EduDivers (Dutch Expertise centre on Education and Sexual Diversity) and COC Netherlands (the national LGBT association). Between 2008 and 2011, the alliance primarily focused on mobilizing national education organizations, such as sector councils (managers of primary and secondary education). In addition, the alliance formulated criteria for LGBT-friendly schools. Because the national strategy did not have a substantial impacton schools themselves, from 2012 to 2014 the alliance organized a "My ID campaign". Each month, in a different region, alle schools were called and the willing schools were visited and encouraged to enhance their school policy. Contact with school was kept through school staff becoming "My ID ambassadors".

political advocacy

In 2011, COC Netherlands withdrew from the alliance and focused entirely on national advocacy and the promotion of Gay / Straight Alliances (school clubs of gay and straight students) and peer-education by volunteers in secondary schools. Since 2010 the COC conducted an intensive lobbying to make education on homosexuality compulsory. This lobby succeeded in late 2012, when one of the key objectives for primary and secondary education was changed. The follow-up strategy of the COC is to improve the monitoring of the implementation of this key objective. A further step would be to change the key objectives for Middle Professional Education. Furthermore, in 2014 the COC succeeded after a long struggle to have the General Equal Treatment Act adjusted. The so-called "single fact construction" was deleted. This provision made it possible for "special" (=religious) schools to dismiss gay and lesbian staff if they did not comply with the religious mission statement of the school (for example by coming-out) and in this way did not limit themselves to "the single fact" of being homosexual.

a new anti-bullying law

A more recent political issue is the national plan against bullying in schools, which was adopted after a series of bullying related suicides of young people. The Ministry of Education stated that the policy and initiatives should be sensitive on diversity "like dyslexia and homosexuality", but the policy does nothing to ensure this. As part of the plan, there an anti-bullying law has been proposed in April 2014. This law includes the obligation for each school to have an anti-bullying coordinator, and the obligation to only use "effective" anti-bullying methods. In June 2014, the National Youth Institute did a scan of 50 available methods and concluded that none could be proven to be effective and that there were only a few "promising". EduDivers also found that the requirements of the draft law and the extremely high level criteria of the National Youth Institute implied that no existing package would want to explicitly focus on sexual diversity and that specific LGBT methods would never be able to meet the criteria because of the needed expertise and very high costs of research and development. This way, the requirement of meet the high demands of the National Youth Institute would - instead of sensitivity to sexual diversity - de facto lead to a total exclusion of sexual diversity in anti-bullying resources.

== municipal policies==

In some regions, municipalities are developing local LGBT policies. In 2008, Minister Plasterk appointed 15 "frontrunner municipalities" that between 2008 and 2011 got EUR 25,000 per year to make local LGBT policy Between 2012 and 2014 this project was extended to include 45 municipalities (who received 15,000 Euros each). MOVISIE, the national institute for well-being, was commissioned to support the municipalities. In order for to stimulate adequate to education polices, EduDivers and the education alliance developed a benchmark for local (municipal) policy. In practice, however, most municipalities hardly focus on structural improvements in their policies. They often give the budget without many demands to local interest group (s), who then use it for one-off projects and events. Some better and worse example of local policies:

In 2002 the municipality of Nijmegen started a project to assist schools systematically. This project was carried out by the Public Health Service in cooperation with LGBT organizations. An important aspect of this project is that it has been prolonged and financially continuous throughout the years since 2002, made the effort sustainable and which eventually started to show measurable results on the students level. The key elements of this project was getting access to school with a high quality kick-off interactive theatre play for students, following it up with an interactive thearte play for teachers and then continuously stimulating and advising the school to implement an effective combination of activities and policies. So far this has been the most successful local project: more than 80% of schools participate in it. See also the website of the schools out GGD Nijmegen.

In 2007, the Nijmegen approach was adapted for Amsterdam and commissioned by the municipality to EduDivers, COC Amsterdam and the Anne Frank House. Frictions between the three partners led the project in 2008 to be entrusted only to EduDivers. This approach seemed to be effective. In 2011 Amsterdam won the award for the municipality with the best LGBT policy, but a month later the town stopped funding the school mobilization project. After 2011, several city councilors visited schools and the COC got funding for peer-education. However, the visits by councilors are more professional development for themselves than having any impact on the approaches of the schools.

In Rotterdam, "RotterdamV", a local LGBT expertise centre, was instructed by the city to approach schools. The method of RotterdamV was characterized by an emphasis on teacher training. After some years the market for teacher training waned ands currently, schools are supported primarily "on demand" in a larger framework of encouraging LGBT emancipation of all youth institutions.

In the late nineties the local Municipal Health Service carried out a massive sex education project including LGBT issues. This project developed a complete resource and then focused primarily on raising expertise of professionals and network development between schools, municipal health departments and the COC peer-education group. In the early 2000s the project got neglected and crashed. In addition, the Municipal Health Service was decentralized to neighborhood and the sex education strategy was dropped. In the years after 2011 Utrecht occasionally funded small LGBT education projects and organized some work conferences, however, these activities were disjointed and without frame.