The Catholic Primary Schools Management Association (CPSMA) has been criticised for its opposition to teaching trans issues to Irish students. The body, which represents 89% of primary schools in the country, wrote a strongly worded letter to Roderic O’Gorman after the minister expressed his support for including such themes in the curriculum.
Belong To is among those who responded to the group’s statement, saying it “is deeply disappointed” by the comments.
“Trans young people are in primary schools in Ireland. Ignoring their existence and silencing conversations around identity will have detrimental effects on the lives of these pupils,” the organisation said.
It continued by highlighting the reality that LGBTQ+ young people face higher risks of mental health issues and suicide ideation in comparison to their heterosexual, cisgender counterparts. Belong To also referenced the 2022 School Climate Survey, which concluded that when young people are given access to supportive spaces in which it is safe to question their gender and sexual identities, they are more likely to feel accepted by their peers, have an increased sense of belonging and are less likely to miss school to avoid victimisation.
“Rather than brushing this topic under the rug, we need to ensure that schools have the capacity and confidence to support all pupils in an age-appropriate manner, including those who are questioning their sexual orientation or gender identity. All pupils deserve to feel safe and supported at school,” the statement continued.
— Belong To (@Belong_To) March 6, 2023
Anna Nolan, Chair of the National LGBT Federation (NXF) – GCN’s governing body – similarly expressed: “The existence of Trans and gender-diverse people is a fact. It is also a fact that LGBT+ youth thrive in school environments that are proactively inclusive and affirming of their identities and/or family units.
“The current RSE programme must be updated to reflect those realities and we commend Minister O’Gorman for his comments in this area.
“In addition to the explicit commitment contained in the Programme for Goverment and the recommendations of the All-Party Oireachtas Committee on Education, we also welcome both the Taoiseach and Tanaiste re-stating their support for an LGBT+ inclusive curriculum in all our state funded schools, regardless of ‘ethos’,” she continued.
“The letter in question, and in particular some of the language used, does nothing to foster the kind of supportive and inclusive practices that enable LGBT+ people to thrive.”
As cited by Nolan, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar personally backed primary school students being offered education on what it means to be transgender, but said that parents should also be given the option to opt-out on behalf of their child.
“I think the purpose of the education system is to prepare children for life and to teach them about the world. Trans people exist. They have always existed and I think it makes more sense in schools to just inform children about the world around them,” he remarked.
“It does not have to be a value judgement in either direction to challenge anyone’s personal or religious opinions.”
Similarly, Tánaiste Micheál Martin said that CPSMA’s letter was “not the way to deal with these issues”.
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