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In the recent expansion of LGBT rights, the issue of teaching various aspects of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender existence to younger children has become a heated point of debate. While proponents state that the teaching of LGBT-affirming topics to children will increase a sense of visibility for LGBT students and reduce incidences of homophobia or closeted behavior for children, opponents to the pedagogical discussion of LGBT people are afraid it would encourage children to violate or question religiously or ideologically motivated rejections of non-heterosexuality in private settings.
All schools should encourage LGBT acceptance, even religious ones, and that’s the reason members or leaders of religion and belief groups — educationists, campaigners and school leaders — warn the Department for Education against any dilution of LGBT advice in the independent school standards. They wrote a letter to warn the Department for Education against diluting the advice it publishes on the independent school standards which stipulates that they must teach respect for LGBT people.
As those people wrote, this poses a significant safeguarding risk to LGBT young people, who are still subject to significant levels of homophobic, biphobic, and transphobic bullying.
Research shows that 45% of LGBT pupils are subject to bullying because of their identity, and the majority hear discriminatory language in school. Challenging LGBT discrimination in school lessons and in everyday school life is fundamental to fostering equality at school and in wider society. This teaching should take place at both primary and secondary levels, to stem the development of anti-LGBT prejudice and to support LGBT people in the school community.
It’s important to recognise that being LGBT and having a religion are not mutually exclusive. LGBT people are members of all communities, across religions and non-religious worldviews. While it is possible for schools to consider issues from a range of religion or belief perspectives, fundamentally all schools, including those with a religious character, must provide lessons that inform young people of their rights, and promote a culture of inclusion and acceptance of diversity.
An excerpt from that letter states: “That’s why we urge the secretary of state to ensure that, irrespective of the type of school they attend, all children are supported and allowed to thrive through education that actively promotes respect and encourages LGBT acceptance.”
Recently, Shraga Stern accuses the National Secular Society of “see[ing] fit to dismiss basic religious freedoms.” All pupils should have the right to access education that will give them clear and accurate information on topics that are so important to their well-being. This includes learning that LGBT people and same-sex relationships exist.