LGBTQ-friendly schools ranking defies Poland's rights crackdown

As Poland's anti-gay policies draw EU condemnation, a schools inclusivity ranking seeks to highlight safe spaces for LGBTQ+ youth. 

Polish teacher Maria Kistowska felt a burst of pride when her school came top in a new LGBTQ+ inclusion ranking that seeks to challenge the nationalist ruling party's curbs on gay and transgender rights.

"This sends out the message that we're LGBTQ+ allies, and it tells kids (that) there's a place where you can feel safe," Kistowska, 37, who teaches English at a school in the western city of Poznan, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

"Success is when you support your students," she said.

Poland's Law and Justice (PiS) party has made anti-gay policies a pillar of its governing platform, and the nation now ranks at the bottom of the 27-member EU on legal protections for LGBTQ+ people, according to advocacy group ILGA-Europe.

But LGBTQ+ advocates hope the school survey initiative, the work of a 22-year-old gay rights campaigner, will show that not all Poles have homophobic views.

"This ranking is showing that there are actually places where we are safe, even if it's hard," said Bartosz Staszewski, one of Poland's leading LGBTQ+ activists.

"It's another layer of Poland."

The new study ranked more than 2,500 schools, about a third of the overall total in Poland, based on the answers of over 22,000 students to a series of questions related to LGBTQ+ inclusion.


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