Gay campaigners, MPs and London mayoral candidates are being criticised by OutRage! for making the misleading claim that Section 28 “prevents teachers from talking about gay issues and combating homophobic bullying”.
“Section 28 prohibits the promotion of homosexuality by local authorities, but not by schools,” said John Beeson of OutRage!.
“Although Section 28 affects schools in Scotland, it does not have any influence over the curriculum in England and Wales.
“There is no ban on teaching about homosexuality or educating against prejudice”, said Mr. Beeson. “Under Section 28, even the outright promotion, advocacy and encouragement of gay sexuality in schools is totally lawful.”
Mr. Beeson has also warned that the “mere repeal” of Section 28 will not be sufficient to remedy the censorship of homosexual issues in schools, and the lack of support for lesbian and gay pupils.
“Section 28 must be replaced by new legislation placing a legal obligation on all schools to provide honest, nonjudgemental information about homosexuality and gay safer sex. There must also be a statutory requirement that schools combat homophobic bullying.
“Section 28 does not apply to schools, except in Scotland. Since the reorganisation of the education system, responsibility for the content of the curriculum has been devolved to school governors acting in consultation with headteachers, staff and parents.
“Section 28 prohibits the promotion of homosexuality by local authorities. Since they no longer control what is taught in schools, Section 28 cannot be used to prevent the teaching of gay issues in the classroom”, said Mr. Beeson.
According to fellow OutRage! campaigner Peter Tatchell:
“Section 28 does not place any restrictions on the English school curriculum, and MPs and London mayoral hopefuls are wrong to claim that it makes supportive teaching on gay issues illegal.
“The big problem is that many teachers mistakenly believe that Section 28 applies to schools. This has led them to censor gay issues in the classroom.
“Homosexuality is often excluded from sex education and HIV prevention lessons. A lot of teachers are afraid to give supportive advice and counselling to lesbian and gay pupils, some of whom may be depressed or suicidal as a result of ostracism and bullying. They erroneously fear prosecution under Section 28.
“Section 28 must be repealed to clear up this confusion and misunderstanding. In its place, schools should be legally obliged to give pupils the facts about homosexuality and gay safer sex, encourage understanding and tolerance, and validate the sexual and emotional feelings of those who are homosexual.
“Unless the sympathetic teaching of gay issues is made mandatory, many schools will continue to evade their responsibility to tackle homophobic prejudice and bullying. Some teachers are themselves homophobic and many feel uncomfortable or ill-equipped to talk about homosexuality.
“To ensure impartial, effective teaching on gay issues, teachers need to receive specialist training on how to discuss homosexuality and gay safer sex in the classroom”, said Mr. Tatchell.