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Prosecute abusive, homophobic counsellors

Published:Wednesday | January 13, 2016 | 1:00 AMDujon Russell

The story that was published in this newspaper 'Guidance counsellors shun gay, lesbian students' (January 11, 2016) is extremely upsetting as it has brought to the fore, once more, the issue of inequality and the discrimination being faced by gays and lesbians, even by educators.

A guidance counsellor is generally acknowledged as being a certified educator who possesses unique skills and is charged with the awesome responsibility of steering the academic career and personal-social development needs of students by designing, implementing, evaluating and enhancing a comprehensive and effective school programme.

We cannot deny that the role of a counsellor is critical in promoting the success of students so that they can become productive members of the society and, as such, they must be adequately equipped to execute their tasks effectively and wholesomely without any form of discrimination.

It was reported that some of the 800 counsellors placed in the school system refuse to provide counselling to gay and lesbian students because they are either not equipped with the relevant skill sets to deal with that minority, which defeats the purpose of their general qualification, or they display offensive homophobic attitudes.

Counsellors are viewed as exemplary members of the society on whom students should be able to depend for competent advice and with whom they can share personal issues that they would not otherwise share with others. This troubling development has, however, shifted the paradigm in this area because some of these very 'role models' are contributing to the stigmatisation and vilification of the diverse population.

The story referenced a point that there are Christian counsellors who wantonly neglect the emotional problems that are plaguing gay and lesbian students at the stage of establishing their sexual identities. I am certainly not surprised that fundamentalists would be so brazen and disgraceful in their conduct since, for the most part, they have been the vehicle for intoleranceover the years.

 

RIGHTS MUST BE PROTECTED

 

How could homophobic counsellors be allowed to carry out this vile and discriminatory practice - which is tantamount to abuse - in our school system which so adversely affects the diverse population of gay and lesbians when, in fact, every student, regardless of their sexual orientation, has rights that must be equally recognised and protected?

How long has this atrocity been taking place in our learning institutions and, besides the Ministry of Education issuing a hurriedly-done safety and security manual concerning the bullying of gay and lesbian students, what actions have been put in place to address this type of misconduct resulting from the abuse and homophobia by counsellors?

Since it is the egregious conduct and intolerance of others that contribute to the disorder and inequity in the society, where are the outrage and condemnation from civil society and from the three most critical organisations that are responsible for the care and protection of our children - the Office of the Children's Advocate, the Child Development Agency and the Office of the Children's Registry?

There must be swift policy implementation to effectively deal with discrimination and intolerance in schools. Counsellors who misconduct themselves by neglecting the real needs of students must be prosecuted under the Child Care and Protection Act since they, too, are neglecting their duties to care for and protect the children.

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