A planned anti-bullying workshop at a Catholic school in County Dublin, Ireland, was cancelled because school administrators said that it did not represent the “other side” of the issue, though they remained vague about what that might be.
Facilitators from Shout Out, an LGBT education group contracted by the school to conduct the workshop, had already arrived at Coláiste Eoin secondary school when administrators told them the event was cancelled, reported the BBC.
Parents had complained about the workshop, which Shout Out had done twice before at the all-boys school without previous incident. According to the principal Finín Máirtín, the workshop did not present the “other side,” which the school later clarified as meaning “other view points which have been expressed.” The The Journal reports the school’s Board of Management is choosing to stand by the administrator’s decision.
“Homophobic and transphobic bullying is a real and life-threatening problem in Irish schools. Our one hour interactive sessions build understanding for people who are struggling with their sexuality, foster support amongst friends and classmates, and encourage a supportive and welcoming school environment for LGBTQ students.”
Coláiste Eoin students took to social media to protest the decision. They organized on Facebook to wear rainbow clothing during classes the next day, enlisting the support of the neighboring Catholic all-girls school to join the protest. A hashtag, #ColaisteEoin, also gained prominence on Twitter. Even Ireland’s Education Minister Jan O’Sullivan weighed in on the controversy by expressing her disappointment and her hope that the program would be rescheduled soon.
Coláiste Eoin administrators released a statement saying that they are proposing to reschedule the workshop because they are a “caring, tolerant and inclusive school community.” However, Declan Meehan of ShoutOut has contacted the school repeatedly, and he has been told that the initial decision stands.
It is difficult to think of what “other side” there is to an anti-bullying workshop. Treating every person according to their human dignity and condemning discrimination are entirely consistent with Catholic teaching. There is no excuse for the bullying of LGBTQ youth. The church’s schools in Ireland and elsewhere should do their utmost to prevent this harmful phenomenon. Coláiste Eoin should reverse their decision and invite SpeakOut to present the workshop with the school’s full apology.
–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry