School Leafleted in Section 28 Protest
Call to stop classroom censorship of gay issues
London Oratory School stands accused of homophobia. Some teachers displayed hostile, fearful homophobic reactions when on arrival at school they were handed leaflets headlined “It’s OK to be GAY!” this morning (Wednesday, 20th May at 8:15 a.m.) by 14 members of OutRage!.
Several teachers expresssed hostility to the discussion of lesbian and gay issues, being too afraid to take a leaflet; and a small number of pupils shouted “queers” and “poofs” at the leafleters. Worryingly, one member of staff defended the right of teachers to be homophobic. Other teachers and parents, however, were supportive. — One parent requested copies of the leaflet for her younger son’s primary school.
“London Oratory School has a number of homophobic staff who are clearly too terrified even to accept information on gay issues”, said John Hunt of OutRage!. “As we have witnessed today, antigay prejudice is a problem the school needs to confront urgently.”
The OutRage! leaflet says: “Heterosexuality, homosexuality and bisexuality are equally valid … If you are not sure about your sexuality, it’s okay to experiment. Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it!”.
It features photos of kissing gay couples, and lists phone numbers for lesbian and gay helplines and youth groups. The leaflet asks: “Are your teachers giving you the gay facts of life?”.
OutRage! is calling for an end to the censorship of gay issues in the classroom. “We want the repeal of Section 28, and new legislation requiring all schools to provide honest, nonjudgemental information about homosexuality. Schools should be legally obliged to combat prejudice and promote the welfare of lesbian and gay pupils”, said Huw Williams of OutRage!.
“There is massive censorship of gay issues in schools. Homosexuality is not mentioned in most sex education lessons. No information is given about how to have gay sex safely.
“Our leaflet gives students the gay facts of life. Teachers should be providing this information: but most are failing to do so”, said Mr. Williams. “Most teachers are now aware of the need to combat racism: but very few demonstrate comparable concern about homophobia.”
OutRage!’s leafleting coincides with the 10th anniversary this coming Sunday of Section 28 of the 1988 Local Government Act becoming law. Section 28 bans the “promotion” of homosexuality by local authorities. OutRage! says many teachers mistakenly believe that Section 28 applies to schools. (It doesn’t.) This has led teachers to censor lesbian and gay issues. OutRage! wants Section 28 repealed, to end this confusion.
The OutRage! leaflet calls on pupils to challenge antigay bullying in the school playground, and to support their lesbian and gay classmates. It advises gay students who are being bullied to contact Childline on 0800-1111.
A 1996 SURVEY OF LESBIANS & GAYS UNDER 18 FOUND THAT:
- 50% had been assaulted because of their homosexuality.
- One in two of those assaulted said the attack involved fellow students,
and 40% said the attack took place at school.
- 60% had suffered harassment, such as threats, blackmail, and graffiti.
- 73% of these said the harassers were other pupils.
- 90% were verbally abused at school with taunts of “poof”, “lezzie”, “queer” and “faggot”.
A 1998 REPORT PUBLISHED BY THE TERRENCE HIGGINS TRUST FOUND THAT:
- most teachers had difficulty in addressing the needs of of lesbian, gay and bisexual pupils.
ORGANISATIONS WHICH SUPPORT BETTER GAY SEX EDUCATION INCLUDE:
- The British Medical Association, the National Union of Teachers, the Royal College of Psychiatrists, Save the Children, Childline, the Royal College of Nursing, MIND, and Kidscape.
PHOTOGRAPHS: Kevin Weaver 020-18.104.22.168 or 0850-56.67.10
FURTHER INFORMATION: Peter Tatchell 020-74.03.17.90