Is Section 28 Back?
Heavy clouds were gathering over the LGBT community today (August 17th) as it emerged that three incipient academies in the UK have stipulated that their ‘governors will not support the promotion of homosexuality’ in their Sex and Relationships education Policy.
According to a report in GayStar News, Castle View Enterprise Academy in Sunderland, Colston Girl’s School in Bristol and Swindon Academy have re-introduced anti-gay language from Section 28, which banned the ‘promotion of homosexuality’, into their Sex and Relationships Policy.
Schools OUT co-chair Sue Sanders said, “The wording is of major concern. While it would be quite inappropriate to try to change a young person’s sexuality – which is arguably impossible anyway – the term ‘promotion of homosexuality’ is a throwback to the dark days of Section 28, when the law made it explicitly clear that non-heterosexuals were inferior and could not form proper families. We will be writing to these academies to seek reassurance that this is not the implication and to entreat them to change their terminology in the first instance.
“Our schools are still not safe spaces for our LGB and T pupils, staff and parents. Would that they were. The last thing we need is to return to the vocabulary of the Thatcher era that perpetuated the myth that we were literally unspeakable in the classroom.”
Fellow co-chair Tony Fenwick added: “Last weekend I joined a protest at Whitehall against the Anti-homosexuality Propaganda Bill and its appalling consequences in Russia. The wording and the spirit of the Russian Bill were inspired by Thatcher’s Section 28, although it goes much further in its scope and in terms of who it will criminalise. Please don’t tell me a week later that I have to start fighting against the return by stealth of such discriminatory legislation in my own country.
“The Equality Act makes it illegal to discriminate against people on the grounds of sexual orientation. The Public Sector Equality Duty says schools must foster good relations between the ‘protected characteristics’ (i.e. LGB people and other protected groups). These academies will be inspected by OFSTED and are subject to the same rules and guidance as LEA schools. They must know this and at this stage I think we need to work on the principle that there is an issue of semantics. I take comfort from the fact that the policy statements say: ‘objective discussion of homosexuality may take place in the classroom’.
“If, however, the intention is to imply that one form of sexual orientation is inferior from another, or that homosexuality can only be discussed in a negative context, then the law is being broken and action must be taken. The ambiguity is also worrying. If a member of staff tells a pupil who comes out as lesbian, gay or bisexual that there is a youth support group in the area and gives the details, would that be ‘promoting homosexuality’? We need answers and we need them fast.”