Should schools offer lessons about gender and sexuality?

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Should schools offer lessons about gender and sexuality?

The United Kingdom has recently seen a debate on whether children should be taught about gender, sexuality, and LGBT rights at school. The education authorities have decided that such topics should be addressed in schools, but members of different religions have protested this initiative. For instance, several Jewish schools still refuse to teach the subject, and Muslim parents have been protesting the use of same-sex couples in equality lessons.

Jewish schools fall short of school standards
The UK education authorities, Ofsted, issued a guidance in 2019, stating that LGBT topics should be addressed in curricula.[1] However, Jewish religious leaders have opposed education on LGBT topics. For instance, ultra-Orthodox rabbis have issued a joint statement declaring that they will not endorse teaching LGBT topics in religious schools, arguing that such teaching goes against their religious beliefs.[2] As a result, several schools are now likely to fall short of independent school standards, because they do not make pupils aware of LGBT issues. This is primarily the case for Haredi schools, which are Jewish ultra-Orthodox schools. Of 23 Haredi schools inspected by Ofsted since September 2019, nine faced critique solely because of their failure to teach about LGBT issues.[3] For instance, Ofsted has stated that a Haredi girls’ primary school in Salford “intend not to make pupils aware of matters related to sexual orientation or gender reassignment.”[4] A Haredi boys’ secondary school in Stamford Hill has also failed to adequately teach its students on such topics, according to Ofsted.[5] The education authority has stated that a lack of education on sexual orientation and gender assignment will result in a gap in students’ moral and intellectual development, making them unprepared for life in British society.[6] Besides the critiques, several Jewish religious figures have also offered their support for Ofsted’s initiative. For instance, Rabbi Warren Elf, of Southend and District Reform Synagogue, stated that several faith leaders have been discussing how education on LGBT issues and other topics related to diversity can be improved.

“Indoctrination” in Welsh education
In Wales, parents are about to lose the right to withdraw their children from lessons on sex and relationships, and also on religion. In particular, the policy on education about sex and relationships aims to teach children about issues such as online safety and healthy relationships. The Welsh education minister, Kirsty Williams, confirmed the plans as part of the government’s overhaul of relationships and sexuality education, and religious education. Christian groups have responded negatively to the decision, with some warning that it could lead parents to decide to homeschool their children as a result. Specifically, some are concerned that their children will be ‘indoctrinated’ with values they do not approve of.[7]

Protests against equality lessons
Christian groups are not the only ones considering keeping their children at home. A Muslim parent, Jabar ‘Jai’ Hussain, is facing a fine or jail for his refusal to allow his nine-year-old son to attend school in Birmingham. He withheld his son from school for months, providing “safeguarding risks” associated with the teaching of gender equality lessons as a reason. Hussain has stated that he has no problems with the concept of homosexuality or transgender identity, but protests at the obligation that his son is taught about the topic, calling it “nonsense”.[8] Also in Birmingham, Muslim parents have been protesting at a school because they are against equality lessons that use books featuring same-sex couples.[9] They have stated that the school’s treatment of homosexuality is against their religious beliefs.[10]

Minority ideas on sexual education
The discussions on educational topics are not solely an issue in the UK. For instance, the Vatican has invoked teachers in Catholic schools to argue against gender theory.[11] In addition, a Jewish girl school in Belgium has ignored education rules by falling short on topics such as sexuality. As a result, the school is risking to lose its recognition and funding.[12] Finally, in Spain, far-right political party VOX has promoted a policy of parental censure, which allows parents to have a say in which subjects their children are taught. The party is especially aiming at issues such as sexuality, gender violence, and LGBT rights, referring to LGBT support in schools as ‘“totalitarian brainwashing.” Spain’s Minister of Education, Isabel Celaa, expressed her opposition to the policy. Nevertheless, the bishop of San Sebastian, Jose Ignacio Munilla, who is known for his conservative views, has responded positively. He has argued that the state does not have the right to decide on children’s education, even if the majority agrees: “There exists the right to be in the minority and that the minority opinion is respected.”[13] [14]

Anne Clerx

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[1] LGBT teaching an abomination, Jewish judge says
[2] UK Charedi rabbis issue statement to make clear their schools cannot talk about same-sex relations in class
[3] Ofsted back on attack over teaching about same-sex relations in Charedi schools
[4]Ofsted criticises Chasidic primary for not teaching LGBT awareness
[5]Charedi school warned for not teaching about LGBT people
[6] Ofsted back on attack over teaching about same-sex relations in Charedi schools
[7]Welsh parents lose opt-out for sex, relationship and religious education
[8]Father who refused to send son to school over gender equality lessons ‘is facing jail’
[9]Ministers accused of ‘radio silence’ over LGBT school protests
[10]Parents permanently banned from protesting LGBT lessons outside school
[11]Vatikan kritisiert Gender-Theorie
[12] Geen seksuele voorlichting, amper evolutietheorie: zorgen ov…
[13]Munilla reivindica la censura parental: “¿Quién es el Estado para imponer tal concepción antropológica?”
[14]Spanish government vows to overturn Right-wing initiative that lets parents block children from attending ‘objectionable’ classes