For same-sex-attracted and gender-diverse young people, high school can be one of the most turbulent periods of their lives.
Key findings from the 2010 report Writing Themselves in 3, a national study that focuses on the attitudes and behaviours of same-sex-attracted and gender-questioning young people, show that school environments are often a place of turmoil.
Sixty-one per cent of those surveyed reported verbal abuse and 18 per cent physical abuse because of homophobia in their lives;
In an effort to change fixed and institutionalised homophobia and transphobia, Sexual Health and Family Planning ACT's Melanie Greenhalgh is helping to co-ordinate the ACT roll-out of the Safe Schools Coalition program in 2015.
Schools that volunteer would
Ms Greenhalgh said training would enable schools to think about strategies such as using gender-neutral language, making provisions for a flexible uniform policy and developing student activities and events to foster open and supportive attitudes.
Staff and teachers would be encouraged to think about what same-sex-attracted, intersexed or gender-diverse students might be feeling.
"The hope of the program is that being a Safe Schools Coalition member is something that schools will proudly put forward as something that sets them apart," she said.
The official launch of the ACT program is planned to happen in the first school term of 2015, but Ms Greenhalgh said a handful of territory secondary schools and one primary school had expressed interest.
Lyneham High School student wellbeing executive teacher Amanda Murtagh said the initiative was a targeted response and helped the school community to combat the rise in young people facing mental health problems.
Ms Murtagh said the school had been progressing an agenda to support diversity for a while, but registering as a Safe Schools Coalition member was a chance for the school to benchmark its efforts and discover where improvements could be made.
"We registered half-way through term four," she said.
"We know mental health issues for LGBTIQ [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, and queer] young people are statistically a lot higher than average.
"It's really important we meet the needs of those kids as best we can."
Bit Bent co-ordinator and Belconnen Community Centre youth and family support worker Jennifer Lewis said the program e
"The problem with having a reactive approach is it infers that it's abnormal, and that people displaying the behaviour are outside the box," Ms Lewis said.
"Rather than being an emergency, this program will set schools up for the future so they know what to do and it's just routine."
Ms Lewis said she hoped, through the program, schools would acknowledge that issues relating to identity and sexuality in whatever form where part of all young people's development.
The national program is funded by the federal Education Department.