Gay rights campaigners have called the lack of mandatory lessons on gay issues in Scottish schools a “national disgrace”. They have brought a petition to Scotland’s government in Holyrood calling for legislation to ensure that gay rights lessons take place in every school, taught by a specially trained teacher.
Jordan Daly, who is behind the group Time for Inclusive Education went before Holyrood’s petitions committee on Tuesday, telling Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) that currently only 13 per cent of schools have a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues specialist on their staff, The Scotsman has reported.
“This is a national disgrace and it is something that seriously should be tackled,” Daly said.
“All children deserve to grow up in an environment free from prejudice and discrimination to be loved, valued and cared for, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
“While the LGBT community has made progress there are serious issues still holding us back – the education system being one of the largest ones.”
According to a 2012 survey by the gay rights campaign group Stonewall, 49 per cent of LGBT pupils are not achieving their full potential at school. The survey also found that one in four young LGBT people have attempted suicide at some point.
Teacher John Naples-Campbell, who came out as gay when he first became a teacher in order to act as a “role model”, also addressed the committee, telling them that many teachers don’t have the confidence to tackle gay rights issues with pupils. Mr Naples-Campbell informed the committee that college staff, who teach 16-19 year olds, do get equality training, and suggested that this could act as a model for school teachers.
“Questions that may be raised by young people, they don’t know how to tackle it and it is about training staff,” he said. “Staff in schools don’t have equality training, it’s not something that schools do.
“There are a lot of gay teachers who don’t know if they can’t come out at school, they don’t know if they feel they should come out and a lot of that is fear. It’s fear, not maybe from the kids, but fear from the public, its fear from religious groups, its fear from repercussions from the head teacher.”
He added: “The only case I’ve heard people have been prevented to speak has been in faith schools.”
The petition also drew criticism, however, in the form of a letter from Rev David Robertson, moderator of the Free Church of Scotland.
He said: “At the outset we restate our view that no pupils should be bullied in school for their beliefs and for the pursuit of a particular lifestyle and morality. We do not believe that insisting that all pupils should be subject to a particular sexual ethic, irrespective of the beliefs and desires of their parents is either the only way or the best and most obvious way of tackling this problem.
The petitioner’s demand for statutory teaching of such topics without provision for parents and pupils who disagree, since they would evidently involve the promotion of a lifestyle which we view as contrary to God’s good plan for us, breaches the human rights of Bible-believing Christians in Scotland.”
He added that Stonewall’s statistics on underachievement and suicide are “deeply concerning,” but argued: “It is not clear that sexual orientation is the main reason behind them.
“Without a comparison to young people in general – and heterosexual young people in particular it is difficult to determine the force of the statistics but even if they are evidently as bad as they seem it does not follow that the only way to tackle them is to prescribe a morality with which many parents would disagree.”