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Section 28 returns: Many more UK schools found to be banning promotion of ‘gay’ issues

Section 28 returns: Many more UK schools found to be banning promotion of ‘gay’ issues

Many more UK schools are found to have banned the promotion of ‘gay’ issues in schools, an echo of Section 28 from the 1980s.

Gay Star News revealed earlier today academies are using Sex and Relationships Education policies to ban the promotion of homosexuality. Since the article was published, more schools have been found with anti-gay policies.

The schools are Swindon Academy, Stockport Academy, Radcliffe School in Milton Keynes, Grace Academy in Coventry, William Hulmes Grammar School in Manchester and Bridge Academy in Hackney, London.

Colston Girl’s School in Bristol are reviewing their anti-gay policy after complaints.  

The schools’ policy states while ‘objective discussion of homosexuality may take place in the classroom,’ ‘the governing body will not permit the promotion of homosexuality’.

A Department for Education spokesperson said in a statement: ‘Our sex and relationship education guidance makes clear that schools should not promote any sexual orientation.

‘Pupils should be given accurate information and helped to develop skills to enable them to understand their developing sexuality, whatever it may be, and to respect themselves and others.

‘All schools can draw up their sex education policy but they must ensure that in everything they do they do not discriminate unfairly on the grounds of sexuality. The Department for Education will be looking into these schools.’ 

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The law was completely repealed in Great Britain in 2003 and the Conservative Party later apologized for introducing the legislation.

But 10 years later it has resurfaced in these eight state-funded academy schools – with the possibility of many more being discovered – threatening efforts by students, teachers and LGBT organizations to fight homophobic bullying in schools.

It comes as Russia faces criticism for its own, even wider, laws banning the ‘promotion’ of homosexuality to children. Current UK Prime Minister David Cameron has criticized Russian President Vladimir Putin over the rules.

The re-emergence of the policy in Britain will be particularly awkward for him as allowing schools to become academies and have greater independence is a pet policy of his Conservative Party.

He has had to work hard to change the image of the Conservatives as the anti-LGBT ‘nasty party’, a reputation they got in part because of Section 28, and which he hoped his championing of gay marriage equality would have overcome.

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.

Siobhan MacMahon, spokesperson for the LGBTIQ Green Party Group has condemned the homophobic policy.

‘It’s clear that there should be a national mandatory curriculum ensuring that every school gives students the information they need about sex and sexuality. The freedom granted to Academies and Free Schools to introduce such homophobic policy leaves LGBT students out in the cold,’ she said.

‘School must be a safe space for LGBT students and teachers, the reintroduction of Section 28s does not allow for that.’

A petition has been launched to tell the schools the policy is ‘unacceptable.’

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’.