Debate is growing in the UK over schools teaching children about lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) identities and relationships.
When a Birmingham school started the “No Outsiders” program, lessons aimed at teaching kids about inclusion, including about ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation, it sparked weekly protests by some parents, and hundreds of children were pulled from classes.
Despite the body responsible for monitoring education approving the classes as age-appropriate, a trust that manages a group of schools in Birmingham announced this week it would temporarily suspend the program.
As schools cave to pressure from some parents, Andrea Leadsom, the Leader of the House of Commons, made things exponentially worse on Wednesday.
Leadsom argued in a radio interview that parents should have control over when their child is “exposed to that information.” The implication that such information is harmful could not be more wrong.
It is important for children to be taught age-appropriate lessons about LGBT people and that being different is not bad.
Human Rights Watch has seen the effects in other countries of banning positive discussions about homosexuality and other “non-traditional” relationships. These policies contribute to bullying and violence, and can leave already vulnerable children feeling like their existence is a mistake.
In Russia, a ban on “gay propaganda” in schools has led to devastating consequences for LGBT children’s mental health. Their grades suffered, their relationships with parents and teachers degraded, and some dropped out of school. Anti-LGBT violence also increased in the wake of the bill’s passage.
“No promo homo” laws – legislation in some US states against promoting homosexuality –effectively give license to discriminate against LGBT kids in school, where all children should feel safe.
In Japan, the government failed to include LGBT issues in the national curriculum despite nearly 75 percent of teachers indicating they wanted the topics to be included.
Some have sought to defend the decision to suspend the teaching because the objections of some parents are linked to religious faith. But people’s beliefs – no matter how firmly held – cannot be used to override the rights of LGBT children to go to school without having to face fear and anguish just for being who they are. What message does it send those children when schools erase their identity from the curriculum?
As hard as it is, schools should stand firm against these protests and support a curriculum inclusive of all children.