OutRage! has written to Scotland’s First Minister, Donald Dewar, urging him to include in the Bill for the repeal of Section 28 legally-binding guidelines on the teaching of sexuality issues in schools.
OutRage! says the guidelines are necessary to reassure anxious parents and refute the campaign of misinformation being peddled by Cardinal Winning and the Keep the Clause lobby.
A letter has been sent by OutRage! to Donald Dewar and Wendy Alexander at the Scottish Executive, proposing the following guidelines for inclusion in an amended Section 28 repeal Bill. — Schools should not promote or encourage any form of sexuality.
All sexual orientations must be discussed in an honest, factual manner.
Pupils should be offered practical advice on how to refuse and report unwanted sexual advances, practise safer sex to stop the spread of HIV, and how to sustain, happy, fulfilling relationships.
There must be a legal obligation on schools to educate students to make responsible sexual and emotional choices based on mutual consent, respect, and love.
Teachers should be required to challenge prejudiced, intolerant antigay attitudes, combat homophobic teasing and bullying, and provide supportive advice and counselling to vulnerable lesbian and gay pupils.
The aim must be to encourage understanding and acceptance of other people –heterosexual, homosexual, and bisexual– and to create a caring, compassionate society that values and appreciates everyone.
“I challenge Cardinal Winning and the Keep the Clause campaigners to disagree with anything in our proposed guidelines. If they accept this compromise, I am ready to work with them to press Donald Dewar to amend the Section 28 Bill”, said Mr. Tatchell.
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.
The new legislation to repeal Section 28 is being criticised by OutRage! as “inadequate”.
“Scrapping Section 28 is no guarantee that teachers will challenge anti-gay prejudice and give adequate support to vulnerable lesbian and gay pupils”, said John Beeson of OutRage!.
“The Bill must be amended to place a legal obligation on schools to combat homophobic bullying, provide factual information about homosexual issues, and ensure the welfare of gay students.
“Without this legal requirement, many teachers will continue to shy away from dealing with gay issues in an upfront, honest manner.
“While no school should promote either homosexuality or heterosexuality, they do have a duty to promote understanding and tolerance. That duty needs to be enshrined in law”, said Mr. Beeson.
Thank you for your letter … regarding sex education for young gay people in schools.
Well planned and effectively presented sex education is vital. Young people need to gain the skills and understanding necessary to take responsible decisions about their personal and sexual behaviour. Although the responsibility for the detailed content and organisation of sex education lies with individual schools, there is no restriction on teaching about lesbian and gay issues in the classroom. Diversity, gender issues and the challenging of stereotypes should feature as part of schools’ Personal, Social and Health Education provision. (Emphasis added.) Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988 applies to the activities of the local authorities themselves, so does not apply to the activities of the governing bodies and staff of schools. Nevertheless, the Government has long made clear its opposition to Section 28 and intends to repeal it when legislative opportunity exists.
I do not believe that there is room for complacency regarding the current provision of sex education in schools, but rather development and improvement. This Department, along with the Department of Health, is considering sex education and the provision of sexual health services, in the context of the Government’s health strategy.
(Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State)