A new proposal in Ireland may mean Catholic schools in the nation would be required to include LGBT issues in certain curricula related to sexuality and relationships.
The Education Committee of the Oireachtas, or national legislature, released a draft report in December with recommendations for ensuring sexual education is “fully inclusive of LGBT relationships and experiences, including sexual orientation, gender identity and the spectrums thereof.” The Independent reported:
“Under the plans, both secondary and primary school children would be taught about gay, lesbian and transgender relationships ‘without distinction as to their heterosexual counterparts’.
“It also recommends changing legislation to ensure schools, such as those owned by the Catholic Church, are required to teach the new sex education programme – even if it is against their ethos.
“It says ‘direction’ should be given by the Department of Education on how schools and colleges under religious patronage should implement the new programme.”
The Committee’s report continued saying that these issues should be raised in an “age and developmentally appropriate manner.” In addition to the changes in curricula, the report also recommended schools create systems for recording anti-LGBT bullying.
The curricula for sexual education in use now is nearly two decades old, reported The Irish Times, and allows religious schools to provide education to students in line with the ethos or “characteristic spirit of the school.” Part of the Education Committee’s report addressed reforms that would be needed to require religious schools teach LGBT issues:
“The committee also recommends that the Education Act 1998 be reviewed so that ‘ethos can no longer be used as a barrier to the effective teaching of the RSE (Relationships and Sexuality Education) and SPHE (Social Personal and Health Education) curriculum’. . .[To ensure] any legislative amendments required to remove the role of ethos as a barrier to the objective and factual delivery of sex education be made as soon as possible and at the latest by the end of 2019.”
The report’s general call for an update would also affect sexuality issues like contraception, consent, and people with intellectual disabilities.
Moninne Griffith, director of the LGBT organization BeLong To, welcomed the Committee’s report, saying that schools which support LGBT students is “a health matter.” Griffith added, according to BreakingNews.ie:
“‘It should be a priority for schools and for parents, this is really a matter of life or death to make our schools safe and supportive so that LGBT young people aren’t self-harming or experiencing suicide ideation because they don’t feel like they belong in schools.'”
The Committee’s report is only advisory, but its recommendations could be taken up by legislators this year. If approved, changes to curricula would be the latest effort in Ireland’s surge of LGBT equality since marriage equality was passed by referendum in 2015. Since then, the country passed LGBT non-discrimination protections, including religious institutions, elected an openly gay prime minister, and seen the national teachers union come out strongly in support of LGBT workers. Helping LGBT students navigate their sexual health and emotional development would be a great next step in 2019.
—Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, January 4, 2018