Latoya Grindley, Staff Reporter
THE ISSUE of homosexual activities in secondary schools has risen to the forefront as one of the behavioural problems confronting school officials. There has been much debate over time, whether co-educational schools are more wholesome for children than same-sex institutions.
In this regard, many parents have also expressed concerns about their children's exposure to homosexuality in schools, and have carefully selected which school their children attend.
While trying to give some reassurance that homosexual engagements in schools are currently no cause for concern, president of the Jamaica Association of Principals of Secondary Schools, Sharon Reid, said the issue really is how the incidents are treated.
According to her, homosexuality, like bullyism, is just one of the behavioural problems that schools will inevitably face.
"Every school will have these problems but, as educators, we have to be careful how we deal with an issue like that and how we manage it."
Recognising that homosexuality has become more obvious in schools nowadays, Reid, who also serves as the principal of St Andrew High School for Girls, said the behaviour could be due to external influences.
"There is heightened interest because of what is happening in the world and the pressures from gay movements," she said, adding that the association is informing members on how best the issue of homosexuality can be dealt with.
Specifically, as it relates to the school she heads, the principal noted that the student handbook speaks to student intimacy. "The handbook points directly to abstinence and forbids student intimacy. As a Christian school, our students are urged to practise abstinence," she stressed.
To adequately deal with dysfunctional behaviour at the institution, Reid noted the importance of guidance counsellors. "We have guidance programmes which allow for discussions and reinforcement. And if at any time we have any information that a child is involved in certain activities, the parents will be called in."
She also emphasised the importance of educators being aware of issues affecting students and to be prepared to effectively deal with them.
"As educators, we have to inform ourselves, be alert as it relates to the changes around us and recognise the pressures affecting children. We have to be prepared to inform our students and be prepared to work with them."
Admitting that there are cases in which students are said to be involved in homosexual activities in schools, immediate past president of the Jamaica Teachers' Association, Paul Adams, indicated that each school has its unique way of dealing with these situations.
"There have been ongoing discussions between the Jamaica Teachers' Association and the Ministry of Education on the matter and if there is an interpretation that this is happening, we urge schools to take the necessary actions to protect children," he said.
Admitting that this is a sensitive issue, he said that educators have to be very careful how students are addressed and reprimanded. "We have to be careful so that we don't brand people's children. You won't find a policy specific to this kind of behaviour, but schools have to put in measures to stop any form of sexual activity whether normal or otherwise."
He has also urged parents to play their part in the event that their child is engaging in deviant activities or is being targeted. "If you have information that children are affected or targeted, you must first of all visit the school. Parents should express concern and this will facilitate an investigation."