Tyrone Reid, Enterprise Reporter
Several secondary school teachers are caught in a bind trying to explain homosexual unions as a viable family option as presented in a Ministry of Education-recommended textbook.
The controversial clause in the book entitled, C-SEC Home Economics and Beyond (Management) by Rita Dyer and Norma Maynard, reads: "When two women or two men live together in a relationship as lesbians or gays, they may be considered as a family. They may adopt children or have them through artificial insemination."
Tailor-made for the course
The head of the home economics department at a prominent high school told The Gleaner that the book in question was tailor-made for the course. "It is a recommended text and it is prepared based on the current syllabus. Just as how the syllabus is laid out by the CXC (Caribbean Examinations Council), this book follows the exact format."
Documents viewed by The Gleaner news team from one prominent high school in Kingston showed that 'Same sex' was listed among the types of families. The documents also revealed that an assignment was given for the students to find photos that depict the different family types. Two photos depicting male as well as female homosexual unions were submitted as a part of the assignment and the student was given an A+ for her efforts.
While Jamaican law does not explicitly prohibit homosexuality, anal sex between men or buggery is a criminal offence.
The faculty at the institution vehemently denied that the teacher was presenting homosexual unions as an acceptable family type. The two vice-principals, who met with The Gleaner, conducted an investigation when our news team brought the matter to their attention. After the investigation, they concluded that the teacher did not act inappropriately.
"The teacher did not teach about same sex (families). She listed it just to say it existed. It was not taught, it arose and the teacher addressed it," said one of the vice principals who requested anonymity. "It's not in her notes or her lesson," he added as he presented a copy of the teacher's lesson plan for our perusal.
The administrators of the prominent institution also pointed out that the teacher told her class that homosexual unions were not socially accepted.
In defence of the teacher's actions, the vice principals presented a ninth grader's notebook in which same sex family as a type was listed, but no definition was provided. However, the assignment in the student's book requested that pictures be presented to depict five of the eight listed family forms.
This student also chose to use a photo that depicted the homosexual union.
However, when the principals conducted their own investigations they did not include the views of the students. "After speaking to the teacher and the Head of Department we didn't think it was necessary. We have responsible teachers here," one principal said.
Sylvester Anderson, president of the National Parent-Teacher Association of Jamaica, categorically stated that his organisation would resist any attempt to teach that homosexual relationships are accepted family types.
"We cannot agree to it being taught as an acceptable form," Mr. Anderson stressed.
At the same time, Susan Hitchener, Director of the Roman Catholic Secretariat told The Gleaner that her organisation does not support the promotion of homosexual unions. "We (Roman Catholic Church) would not approve of teaching same sex marriages in schools. It's not that it doesn't exist but it is not something the church wants to promote," explained Miss Hitchener.
She also noted that it should not be perceived that the Roman Catholic Church is against homosexuals, but appreciated that the church is against homosexual activities. "And, therefore any teaching with regards to same sex relationships or marriages would not be approved of," she said.
Additionally, Miss Hitchener noted that while her organisation does not possess complete autonomy over the schools that fall under the auspices of the Roman Catholic Church, it does have influence over the books that are chosen from the pool of Ministry recommended texts.
Efforts to get a comment from the Ministry of Education were unsuccessful.
Today, there is much discussion about what constitutes a family. There seems to be a broadening of the traditional definitions of a family structure. When two women or two men live together in a relationship as lesbians or gays, they may be considered as a family. They may adopt children or have them through artificial insemination.
- An excerpt from the book 'C-SEC Home Economics and Beyond (Management)' by Rita Dyer and Norma Maynard