A key church official in Scotland has affirmed Catholics’ participation in developing standards for the country’s new LGBT curriculum, reportedly the first such standards to be implemented in the world and which set a model for Catholic education around the globe.
Barbara Coupar, director of the Scottish Catholic Education Service (SCES), wrote in the Scottish Catholic Observer about church officials’ participation in the development and now implementation of a new LGBT-focused curriculum. Coupar said being a member of the working group behind the new standards was “extremely important” given Catholic schools would inevitably be affected. She said Catholic schools wanted to help ensure all students feel safe and included, explaining:
“The group considered the five pledges of the TIE [Time for Inclusive Education] campaign. There are aspects of the campaign that resonate with all Catholic schools, including the desire to have well trained staff within schools who feel confident and equipped to meet the needs of pupils and to address ineffective use of recording of LGBTI bullying.
“In addition, all Catholic schools see a need for quality lessons to tackle prejudice and to find ways to assist schools to improve their equalities policies, so as to better reflect under represented protected characteristics, as outlined in the 2010 Equality Act. . .
“So what are we going to do and how are we going to do it? Catholic schools are unequivocal in their care for all the children and young people in the school community, and support each one individually, even if their choices differ from the Catholic vision of human sexuality.”
The standards will apply to all schools in Scotland, secular and religious. A key focus for Catholic educators will be discrimination and hate crimes. New resources have been designed to complement existing curricula on religion and morality, and will focus on tackling “the root cause of bullying, hate crime and intolerance in a holistic way.” Coupar added:
“By exploring Church teaching, the dignity of the human person and Catholic Social Teaching, pupils are equipped to challenge behaviour and language that does not respect each individual, to articulate why the Church teaches that injustice is wrong, and to critically evaluate the messages that society gives through the media and social platforms about the dignity of the human person.
“We hope that, through our approach, our Catholic education community can contribute to the goal of eradicating all hate crimes, injustice and prejudiced based intolerance in Scotland.”
Coupar defended the Church’s participation against those who claim doing so weakens Catholic identity or opposes Church teaching. Participating in the working group helped ensure both that religiously-affiliated schools would still be able to teach their values while ensuring every student learns about LGBT issues:
“Within the working group it was acknowledged that some members would not necessarily agree with each other on all matters, but that consensus was possible.
“It is a testimony to the respectful atmosphere and the determination of each member of the group to arrive at a mutually acceptable consensus that the recommendations were reached.
“SCES and the University of Glasgow, (through the St Andrew’s Foundation), are all sure that the members of the working group are sincere in the aspiration to implement the recommendations in a way that will allow all schools, teachers and parents to participate and engage in full conscience according to their religious belief.”
Scottish church officials’ choice to prioritize students’ flourishing with a focus on the Church’s social justice teachings is precisely the approach every educator in Catholic education should take. If the curriculum is implemented with this same focus on Catholic Social Teaching, students will get a lesson not only on LGBT issues and anti-bullying, but a moral framework with which to approach such issues throughout their lifetime. Such lessons greatly benefit not only LGBT students; they help all students grow in their appreciation for and understanding of sexuality, gender, non-discrimination, and respect for human dignity. Barbara Coupar and her colleagues should be commended for their work, which now exists as one more positive model for LGBT issues in Catholic education worldwide.
—Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, December 11, 2018