Home > gay, Lesbian > The Age – "Call to teach same-sex issues" by Cathy Anderson

The Age – "Call to teach same-sex issues" by Cathy Anderson


Educators want a national schools program tackling gay issues. By Cathy Anderson.

A CONFERENCE at Deakin University has called for a compulsory national schools education program on same-sex issues to help prevent homophobic abuse and curb discrimination.

The Schooling and Sexualities Ten Years On conference heard that many gay students continued to suffer isolation, abuse and suicidal tendencies, owing in part to the fractured policies on same-sex education in schools.

Research presented also revealed many gay teachers were forced to live dual lives for fear of discrimination from colleagues, parents and students.

About 100 academics, policymakers and teachers from Australia, New Zealand and the US attended the three-day event earlier this month. It was organised to assess the progress made since a pioneering conference was held 10 years ago at Deakin to address the need for same-sex issues to be taught in Australian schools.

The “reunion” conference heard many government and independent schools were largely conservative.

A panel from Melbourne and regional Victoria of gay students, and one student who has a gay parent, told the conference inadequate programs had left some of them feeling depressed and suicidal.

Yvonne, a year 12 student from Sale, spoke of how she was ostracised by her classmates through most of high school, bullied in front of teachers who turned a blind eye, and denied access to sexual health information specific to lesbians.

She said that by 16 she was suicidal. She also received very little familial support, with her mother telling her “not to come home” after Yvonne revealed she was gay.

Several other students who spoke at the conference experienced similar emotional torment, depression and loneliness. All the students said there was little or no educational policy regarding sexuality at their schools, and information about gay support groups was non-existent.

All agreed they would have benefited from such programs, and said increased education about same-sex attracted youth would probably have diminished the levels of homophobia they encountered.

Many presenters believed the problem was an absence of a national, compulsory program and the unwillingness of principals, politicians and parents to allow same-sex issues to be formally raised in schools.

While the conference presenters discussed resources, such as the national Talking Sexual Health program developed by La Trobe University and various state programs such as Shine in South Australia, schools were not obligated to adopt them.

“Many schools are still very homophobic,” said conference joint co-ordinator Dr Lisa Hunter, a lecturer in the school of education and professional studies at Queensland’s Griffith University.

“Parents can be a main influence as to whether diverse sexualities are liveable and whether exploration is demonised or ignored.”

Dr Hunter said supportive and informed teachers and parents were vital if young people were to have a positive schooling experience.

“Politicians and organisations from the Christian right often block programs. The moment you put the word ‘sex’ in a school program, you are shooting yourself in the foot. Even states with mandatory curriculums, it’s not necessarily carried out and it’s still on a school-by-school basis.”

Conference attendees also heard how gay teachers were often unable to help gay students because they feared being outed and discriminated against. The recent case, revealed in Education, of a Melbourne University student teacher removed from her position after she told her students she was gay was cited as an example.

Tania Ferfolja, school of education lecturer at the University of Western Sydney, shared her research on lesbian secondary teachers in government schools in NSW. She told the conference most of the women were fearful of coming out and often led double lives.

Ms Ferfolja said the rise of neo-conservative politics had a huge effect on attitudes in schools. Policies such as the ban on gay marriage, IVF access for lesbians and the adverse reaction to ABC TV’s Play School episode featuring two lesbian parents, contributed to a reluctance of gay teachers to be out at school.

Conference joint co-ordinator Dr Maria Pallotta-Chiarolli said the event had some very positive outcomes. She said sex education had made improvements over the past 10 years but there was still a lot of work left to do.

“Programs are slowly getting into schools, but we need to find a way to mandate their inclusion,” Dr Pallotta-Chiarolli, a senior lecturer at Deakin, said. “Schools have an inherent heterosexuality, which is supported by a lack of equity in law and the use of language such as ‘phase’ and ‘choosing a lifestyle’. That’s the sort of attitude we need to change.”

Following the conference, researchers, academics, family planning groups and teachers pledged to build stronger networks to decrease the level of homophobia in schools and provide more support for gay and lesbian students and teachers.

One initiative is to create an international centre on sexuality and health classes. It will be set up and headed by US-based gay and lesbian education policy pioneer Professor James T. Sears (who was the keynote speaker and conference facilitator), with committee representatives from Australia, New Zealand, Asia and the South Pacific. The centre will collect and disseminate information about same-sex programs in the US and Australasian region and co-ordinate research grants.

Other conference initiatives were:

· An Australian website and national publication to be launched.

· Two forums will be held in Queensland with the education department to address homophobia in schools, policy changes needed and implementation across the state.

[Link: Original Article]

Advertisements
Categories: gay, Lesbian
  1. No comments yet.
  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: