Heated row over same-sex marriage poster sent to primary schools
The Iona Institute has hit out at a poster celebrating different kinds of families, including those headed by same-sex couples, that is being distributed to primary schools.
The 'Different Families, Same Love' poster, the first of its kind in Irish classrooms, is being sent out by the primary teachers' union INTO. It is being provided to its 40,000 members to use as a classroom resource.
But Dr John Murray, chairman of the Iona Institute, has challenged the use of the poster in those schools where its message runs counter to the school's ethos.
"Denominational schools should be allowed to be denominational. The problem with this poster is that it seems to require, or suggest to teachers, that they teach in a way that treats all family forms as being the same", he said.
Dr Murray said the Iona Institute was very much in favour of all teachers respecting human dignity and being anti-bullying, "but it has to be done in a way that is in harmony with the ethos of the school".
The poster and accompanying lesson plans were produced by the INTO Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender (LGBT) group to help and encourage teachers to discuss different family forms, including LGBT couples, one-parent families and multi-ethnic family groups.
The lesson plans are designed for pupils of different ages to guide teachers on how to use them as a resource in Social Personal and Health Education (SPHE) classes.
Education Minister Jan O'Sullivan supports the poster and said it would be invaluable to teachers in creating inclusive classrooms.
She said it would help teachers to discuss different family forms as well as being an aid to successfully implementing the compulsory anti-bullying procedures.
The minister said the initiative was an attempt to redress the lack of representation of children from different family structures in classroom life, while at the same time promoting values of tolerance, understanding and diversity.
"It will bridge the gap for families that have for too long felt excluded from the school narrative and community. Topics such as discrimination, homophobia and transphobia can now be addressed through age-appropriate material at primary level, ensuring that we create an inclusive and open space for each and every child," she said.
INTO general secretary Sheila Nunan said it sent an affirming and welcoming message to LGBT children and LGBT-headed families.
She added: "Furthermore, children hearing their teacher describe LGBT people and families in a positive way will empower all children to respect and celebrate difference and will be a huge step towards preventing homophobic and transphobic bullying in our schools."
But Dr Murray said the poster seemed to suggest that it was wrong to put forward one type of relationship as ideal and that a teacher who did that could be accused of putting down pupils in the class who were not part of that kind of family.