Several UK schools have stepped back to the 1980s and introduced Section 28-style bans on ‘promoting homosexuality’, teachers have warned.
At the National Union of Teachers’ annual conference in Brighton yesterday (22 April), delegates warned at least 46 schools still have policies similar to the anti-gay language of the past.
When the late Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher approved Section 28 in 1988, the controversial amendment effectively blocked teachers from discussing homosexuality in the classroom, or providing support to any LGBT student who approached them for help.
The law was completely repealed in Great Britain by the Labour party in 2003 and the Conservative Party later apologized for introducing the legislation.
But now Deborah Glynn, from St Helens, Lancashire, has cited research by the British Humanist Association to the conference which, she said, showed there are many schools bringing this wording back into their policies.
‘A lot are fundamentalist groups – mainly Christian,’ she said, as reported by The Independent.
A number of schools cited in the BHA research did withdraw the wording after it was pointed out to them, but many still carry the wording of Section 28.
A Department of Education spokesperson said: ‘Any suggestion of schools singling out homosexuality is unacceptable.
‘Last summer the Department for Education launched an investigation into schools who were alleged to have this kind of policy. As a result, all schools with offending policies committed to withdraw or replace them.
‘All schools can draw up their own sex education policy but they must ensure they do not discriminate unfairly on grounds of sexual orientation. Our sex and relationship education guidance makes it clear that schools should not promote any sexual orientation.’
Wes Streeting, Head of Education for leading gay rights group Stonewall, told Gay Star News: ‘Section 28 was abolished ten years ago because of the harmful effect that homophobic bullying has on the education and wellbeing of children.
‘More than half of lesbian, gay and bisexual young people experience homophobic bullying today to such an extent that one in four attempt suicide and the majority self harm.’
‘Head teachers and governors who are only prepared to acknowledge gay people in the context of stopping their pupils from catching HIV and AIDS are simply not up to the job of educating and safeguarding the children in their care,’ Streeting added.
Section 28 was part of the 1988 Local Government Act in the UK. It said a local authority ‘shall not intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality’ or ‘promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship’.