Sunday 26 January 2020

Homosexual teachers 'face hostile environment at school'

Picture posed. Thinkstock
Picture posed. Thinkstock
Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

GAY primary primary school teachers are still encountering open hostility in the classroom and staffroom, according to a teachers' leader.

Irish National Teachers' Organisation (INTO) president Noreen Flynn said that although many teachers were extremely supportive, others were hostile to their gay colleagues.

As a result, many teachers still witness, hear or are confronted by homophobia in primary schools here.

"Hostility should not surprise us given the manner in which homophobia has been reinforced over many decades by laws, religion, institutions and cultural conventions," she said.

"Every positive action will help roll back discrimination until every staffroom is an inclusive staffroom and every school is an inclusive school."

Now the INTO has issued good practice guidelines to its 38,000 members in the Republic and Northern Ireland, aimed at creating an "inclusive staffroom".

Aware

Among the advice to teachers is to be aware that a percentage of colleagues or their family/friends are lesbian, gay or bisexual.

Teachers have also been told to make sure that staff social events involving partners are equally open to same-sex partners.

They have also been advised to talk about issues that affect gay, lesbian and bisexual teachers alongside all other equality issues that are discussed in the staffroom.

The guidelines were launched by Senator Katherine Zappone, who said teachers could take hope from the example set by her spouse, Dr Ann Louise Gilligan, who took the Irish state to court because of its refusal to recognise their Canadian marriage.

At the time, Dr Gilligan was teaching in St Patrick's College, Drumcondra, Dublin, and faced the threat of Section 37 of the Employment Equality Act, which allows religious-run institutions, such as schools, to claim an exemption in order to uphold the ethos of the institution.

"Though her action could be interpreted as undermining the religious ethos of the institution of her employment, Ann Louise decided to do it anyway," said Ms Zappone.

"And the sky did not fall in on her -- she continued to teach there until her early retirement two years ago."

Irish Independent

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