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LGBT issues and Catholic schools

Following concerns about the teaching of LGBT matters in Catholic schools, Barbara Coupar of the Scottish Catholic Education Service addresses the Church’s implementation of the government-backed TIE campaign.

The Scottish Catholic Education Service was one of the members of the recently concluded ‘Scottish Government LGBTI Inclusive Education working group.’

In participating in this group SCES wanted to ensure that there could never again be a situation where a pupil leaves a school in Scotland, having been subjected to prejudice based bullying, violence or unjust behaviour. By working together the agencies in this group wanted to ensure that all children feel included within their school community.

There have been concerns raised that, by participating in this working group and engaging with this topic, there could be a diminishing of Catholic teaching in Catholic schools. This will not be the case. It has always been a priority for the Church, to participate in working groups and discussions that may impact on the rights of people of Faith being able to live and work according to their beliefs.

 

TIE campaign

Participation in this working group was extremely important as the outcomes had implications for Catholic schools.

The group considered the five pledges of the TIE campaign. There are aspects of the campaign that resonate with all Catholic schools, including the desire to have well trained staff within schools who feel confident and equipped to meet the needs of pupils and to address ineffective use of recording of LGBTI bullying.

In addition, all Catholic schools see a need for quality lessons to tackle prejudice and to find ways to assist schools to improve their equalities policies, so as to better reflect under represented protected characteristics, as outlined in the 2010 Equality Act.

 

Carefulness

However, there are also aspects of the campaign that required careful consideration and for which SCES, could not offer full support.

By the nature of the campaign, TIE has a particular focus. Catholics in Scotland are acutely aware of the impact of religious hate crime and intolerance and therefore SCES want our education system to challenge all areas of discrimination and intolerance.

The law that protects the LGBTI community is the same law that is in place to fight religious hate crime, including anti-Catholic prejudice. We want to ensure that, in learning about their own rights and their place in society, our children and young people also learn to protect others.

The remit of the working group was to reach a consensus on LGBTI inclusive education that would best serve all of the children in our schools and, therefore that was the focus for discussions.

Within the working group it was acknowledged that some members would not necessarily agree with each other on all matters, but that consensus was possible.

It is a testimony to the respectful atmosphere and the determination of each member of the group to arrive at a mutually acceptable consensus that the recommendations were reached.

SCES and the University of Glasgow, (through the St Andrew’s Foundation), are all sure that the members of the working group are sincere in the aspiration to implement the recommendations in a way that will allow all schools, teachers and parents to participate and engage in full conscience according to their religious belief.

 

Inclusiveness

So what are we going to do and how are we going to do it? Catholic schools are unequivocal in their care for all the children and young people in the school community, and support each one individually, even if their choices differ from the Catholic vision of human sexuality.

Catholic schools are caring and inclusive, and do not foster or leave unchallenged discrimination on any grounds. They recognise the uniqueness of each child, while not labelling children to any one characteristic.

In all that they do, Catholic schools will always teach according to the teachings of the Catholic Church. SCES is clear that it has a responsibility to protect and promote Church teaching.

This does not mean, however, that pupils will not learn through inclusive education which tackles LGBTI matters.

 

Tackling hate crime

In writing classroom resources that tackle equality and inclusion, SCES is offering schools materials that complement the existing relationships and moral education resources for Catholic schools.

This new series of resources, rooted in the Church’s vision of what it means to be in relationship with God and others, can be embedded into existing work which tackles the root cause of bullying, hate crime and intolerance in a holistic way.

Ensuring pupils understand inclusive education as an integral part of learning—not a topic disconnected from other dimensions of learning.

By exploring Church teaching, the dignity of the human person and Catholic Social Teaching, pupils are equipped to challenge behaviour and language that does not respect each individual, to articulate why the Church teaches that injustice is wrong, and to critically evaluate the messages that society gives through the media and social platforms about the dignity of the human person.

We hope that, through our approach, our Catholic education community can contribute to the goal of eradicating all hate crimes, injustice and prejudiced based intolerance in Scotland.

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