GALLERY:

This secondary school is the first in Laois to raise the LGBTI+ rainbow flag

Lynda Kiernan

Reporter:

Lynda Kiernan

Email:

lynda.kiernan@leinsterexpress.ie

The students in St Fergal's College in Rathdowney have become the first in Laois to raise a Rainbow Flag to support students of all sexual orientations.
The flag has been raised to show that St Fergal's has a dedicated safe space for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transexual and intersexual students and allies.
Students and management had a day of celebrations that included a rainbow cake, to officially launch their milestone.
2017 Stand Up! Week was held 13 - 17 November and St Fergal’s marked it by creating a wall called “The PRIDE of Ireland” which featured famous people who identify as LGBTI+. First and Second years made rainbow coloured origami stars to decorate the corridors.
St Fergal's College LGBTI+ Social Group was also launched. The driving force was Prefect Amy Wall.
“I wanted to create the safe space for LGBTI+ students and allies to meet and chat in a comfortable environment. I found that safe space in the art class at school in 5th year and realised how important that space had become for me. I wanted to create that for the greater LGBTI+ community in St Fergal’s before I left,” Amy said.
With support from management and staff, Amy together with the Amber Flag team and mentor Ms C Kennedy achieved her goal.
The SPHE classes had workshops facilitated by Ms Kennedy. 
“It has been a great honour for me to be part of this week and I think our school community as a whole has greatly benefited. It was great to see staff support and the conversation about tackling homophobic bullying had started with both staff and students in such a positive way. Raising awareness in the whole school has already proved to be a massive step in the right direction. It took a lot of courage for Amy to drive this initiative and that has to be admired,” she said.
“The raising of the Rainbow Flag, a familiar symbol for the LGBTI+ Community was a proud and historical moment for the school,” said principal Aine O'Neill.
The school has thanked Ms Jessica O'Brien and the Amber Flag committee for all their support particularly Hannah Murphy and Youth Work Ireland Laois.
Clive Davis is manager of Youth Work Ireland Laois, who run a weekly LGBTI+ Youth Group in Portlaoise.
“It is a basic requirement that all students should be able to be themselves, without experiencing bullying as a result. Lets make 2018 the year where we have all schools nationwide taking part in Stand Up! Week,” he said.