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Gleaner Editors' Forum - Homosexuality in schools
published: Sunday | October 12, 2003


Rev. Gordon

Garwin Davis, Assistant News Editor

SCHOOLS NEED to begin educating students about different forms of human sexuality given that homosexual tendencies are prevalent throughout the nation's schools, says the Rev. Canon Ernle Gordon.

Addressing a Gleaner's Editors' Forum at the company's North Street, Kingston, offices last Thursday, the Anglican priest said school officials can no longer shy away from the controversial topic of homosexuality, adding that it was the accepted way of life for many persons, including students.

"We have to educate people in terms of sexuality," Rev. Gordon said. "This stuff has to begin from prep school ­ I am a manager of a primary school and homosexual tendencies are all over the schools now."

PEOPLE ARE DIFFERENT

He continued: "We have to understand that people are different ­ we have to educate people about the need to be more tolerant ­ we have to be more inclusive in our relationships ­ in our language ­ in the churches."

It's doubtful however, based on past reactions, that Canon Gordon's suggestion will find favour with the Ministry of Education or local school authorities.

Maxine Henry-Wilson, Minister of Education, yesterday said the position of the Government remains the same. She said that there was nothing on their agenda to suggest that they will be reopening this discussion anytime soon. Under public pressure nearly two years ago, then Minister of Education, Senator Burchell Whiteman, withdrew permission for the use of a controversial teachers' sex education manual in schools. The withdrawal came amid the uproar that the text treated homosexual practices as normal behaviour.

The manual called Preparing for the vibes in the world of sexuality, was authored by Joseph Robinson, a dance choreographer. The book was a pilot project developed in collaboration with the Ministry of Education and had been used in a number of secondary schools across the island.

"Permission for the continued use of the text in its present form in the schools ­ in the sample ­ will be withdrawn as the Ministry cannot promote the acceptance as normal of a practice which is contrary to our laws," Mr. Whiteman said in explaining the reason for the withdrawal.

Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) Spokesman on Education, Anthony Johnson, who also had been vehemently opposed to the book being used in school, has not softened his position.

"We have a lot more important problems on our hands such as the problem of literacy, than to be contemplating the teaching of deviant behaviour to our students," he said.

Asked whether he believed homosexuality was widespread throughout the school system, Mr. Johnson gave a firm 'no'.

"Studies have shown that it's about three per cent of persons in societies worldwide who suffer from a psychological problem in which they feel they are attracted to people from the same sex," he said. "The rest of those who are engaged in the practice do so for other reasons, including material gains. Judging from this, I would not say it's prevalent in the schools ­ it may be there ­ yes, but no I don't think its widespread."

J-FLAG ­ a group representing gays and lesbians ­ also advocates teaching about all aspects of sexuality in schools, suggesting that it would go a long way in alleviating some of the daily problems being experienced by gay students.

"What is the society afraid of?" one member asked. "There is this misconception that homosexuals are more likely to prey on young children as opposed to so-called straight people. This couldn't be further from the truth. There is nothing by way of statistics to support such a claim. Actually, there is a word to describe those who prey on young children ­ they are called pedophiles."

Public Defender Howard Hamilton, who was also a guest at the Editors' Forum said while everyone may not agree with the homosexual way of life, as a society, it was important to practice what he referred to as "tolerance for others".

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