One of the interesting things about the current Russian clampdown on the rights of QUILTBAG people is that it appears to have been inspired by a British law. Under Margaret Thatcher, the UK introduced the infamous Section 28, which banned schools from “promoting” homosexuality. This wasn’t entirely bad. As Peter Tatchell said on Shout Out on Thursday, the outrage that this engendered gave rise to a strong gay rights movement. Nevertheless, the damage that Section 28 did to teachers and pupils at the time was enormous. It was a recurring theme when our oral history team at Out Stories Bristol conducted interviews with local people. Russia’s law uses very much the same language, but extends the prohibition beyond schools to society at large, which is even more damaging.
It couldn’t happen again here, right?
Wrong. It is happening right now.
As this petition explains, “Under the freedom granted to Academies and the lack of a national curriculum on Sex and Relationships Education (SRE) several schools have reintroduced their own version of Section 28″. They include Colston Girl’s School in Bristol. You’ll be sure I’ll be having something to say about that.
Let’s be very clear about this: a ban on “promoting” homosexuality is a ban on saying anything positive about it. That means it is effectively teaching that homosexuality is wrong, especially if the school policy says that pupils should be taught about it, which the one I have read does. That sort of thing should not be allowed in British schools.
By the way, my apologies for the petition being on change.org. I think the aggressive marketing of other petitions that they engage in is reprehensible. I’d never start a petition there, but that’s where this one is.
Update: Via Twitter I understand that Colston is now reviewing its Sex & Relationship Education Policy. See here. This policy from Castle View Enterprise Academy appears to be still current (see 11.2). The Swindon Academy policy also appears to be current.
Update 2: Thanks to Cathy Butler for a link to the original policy at Colston. Strangely this appears to be identical to the policy for Castle View. The sharp-eyed amongst you will notice that when you open it in a browser the heading says it is the policy for Djanogly City Technology College. I’ve checked their website and the policy doesn’t seem to be listed there. But clearly someone has been issuing boiler plate homophobic sex education policies to academies. I want to know who that was.
I note also that this has been going on for some time. Someone tried to get information from Colston as to how they came up with their policy under a Freedom of Information request. The response was as follows:
With regard to copies of documentation relating to the formation of the old policy no such documents exist, therefore they cannot be disclosed.
So yes, color me suspicious.
Update 3: And thanks to some more sleuthing by Cathy, we have an explanation, of sorts. Though that still doesn’t excuse the schools for failing to review the policies that they were adopting. And, contrary to what that link says, the policies for all three schools named in the petition appear to be still in place (Colston’s being under review, but not yet replaced).