Catholic schools in England will no longer use the gendered terms “mother” and “father” on admissions forms after a government official ruled these could be potentially discriminatory. Crux reported:
“The Office of the Schools Adjudicator, which settles disputes on behalf of the government, upheld the objection of a parent who wished to enroll a child in Holy Ghost Catholic Primary School in London.
“The parent had been asked to fill in a form which left spaces only for the names of “mother/guardian” and “father/guardian” and argued that the terms discriminated against “separated, step- and gay parents.”
“Peter Goringe, one of 12 adjudicators, said in a late October ruling that ‘in the absence of any clarification of the term “parent,” the use of the words “mother” and “father” might, as the objector suggests, be taken to imply that the school is restricting its definition.'”
Not only Holy Ghost, but some 2,200 schools administered by the Catholic Education Service of the Bishops’ Conference England and Wales have now removed gendered language for parents, replacing “mother” and “father” with “parent 1” and “parent 2.”
This development follows other positive steps which have happened in England’s Catholic schools in the last year. In October, the headteacher at a Catholic high school wrote to parents letting them know students should use other students’ preferred name and pronouns. Earlier this year, the English bishops released an anti-bullying guide for Catholic schools, “Made in God’s Image: Challenging homophobic and biphobic bullying in Catholic Schools.”
Though the changes were mandated at Holy Ghost, it is a positive step that the Catholic Education Service is implementing changes nationally. The goal now is for England’s Catholic schools–and, indeed ALL Catholic schools–to become more proactive in welcoming and supporting families with LGBT members, be they students, parents, or siblings. Simple fixes, like changing language on forms or normalizing the use of pronouns, may seem insignificant. But it is these small steps accumulating which leads to the larger changes wherein Catholic education becomes a space where every LGBT person can feel welcomed.
And if Catholic educators are looking for inspiration, they should review the Church of England’s newly-released guide on preventing anti-LGBT bullying, “Valuing All God’s Children,” which Bondings 2.0 covered here last month.
—Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, December 6, 2017