'Homophobic' RSE booklet removed from Irish schools’ resource materials

The text invites students to debate shocking statements surrounding the LGBTQ+ community.

A classroom full of empty tables and chairs, as a homophobic RSE booklet has been removed from Irish schools.
Image: Unsplash

The Department of Education has removed an RSE (relationships and sex education) booklet deemed “homophobic” from the website listing their official school resource materials. The document was intended to be used by teachers of first, second and third-year secondary school students, and encouraged pupils to debate on harmful statements surrounding the LGBTQ+ community.

The booklet was removed from SPHE.ie, a website for Social, Physical and Health Education run by the government-funded Professional Development Service for Teachers (PDST). Reports state that it was taken down four months ago, after its homophobic nature was brought to the attention of Fine Gael TD Jennifer Carroll MacNeill.

Within the handout was an exercise that invited students to debate statements such as: “all gays molest children”; “all lesbians are butch (masculine)”; “all gays are HIV positive”; “you can change from being homosexual”; “homosexuals shouldn’t be allowed to marry”; and “people are gay because of the way they are brought up”.

Students were instructed to read the statements and then “answer whether [they] agree, disagree or are not sure.”

There were also poems in the senior cycle booklet surrounding gender and fertility, with one reading: “I am woman/Created by god, perfection is me/Fertile nurturing, my body is me”

Once made aware of the teaching resource, TD Carroll MacNeill wrote to Minister for Education Norma Foley several times, emphasising the importance of reviewing the RSE curriculum. Speaking on the booklet, Carroll MacNeill stated: “Those are homophobic statements, there is simply no question about that”, and she felt that they were harmful towards LGBTQ+ staff and students.

The politician wants to see reform within the subject, and asked, “When are we going to see a programme for junior cycle, senior cycle and primary schools? […] At every stage, when are we going to see teachers getting training, when are we going to see new materials? I think it’s fundamental to how we approach gender and sexual violence.”

The Department of Education initially said that the homophobic RSE booklet had been removed in June, but it was still accessible online in August. A representative for the department said that following a review conducted by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA), it was decided that the document “should not be included in resources provided for schools” and that they “do not reflect the inclusive standards and ethos which the education sector seeks to uphold”.

The spokesperson continued by saying: “The PDST has advised that the resources in question are no longer used in continuing professional development (CPD) training which PDST provides to teaches,” adding that the material was not to be “referenced, promoted or advocated” in schools.

© 2021 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.

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