Following on from the news that one Birmingham school has stopped its LGBT+ relationships and equality lessons, Section 28 has started trending on Twitter.
So for those who don’t know what Section 28 is here’s a little summary.
What was Section 28?
Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988 meant that local authority employees, including school teachers, could not “intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality” or “promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship”.
Section 28 was supported by a number of religious groups including, Salvation Army, the Christian Institute Christian Action Research and Education, the Muslim Council of Britain, and groups within the Catholic Church and the Church of England.
It became law in England, Scotland and Wales on the 24th May 1988 under Margaret Thatcher’s Tory government. Section 28 was repealed in 2003 by the Labour government. The Scottish government was able to repeal this bill in 2000 and was, in fact, one of the first pieces of legislation enacted by the new Scottish Parliament.
Why is it trending now?
The Labour MP for Birmingham Ladywood, Shabana Mahmood gave a speech at the end of February in which she raised concerns from her constituents that there was no consultation with parents before schools embarked on the No Outsiders campaign in Birmingham, where the ethos of the campaign was to promote LGBT+ equality and to question transphobia and homophobia in primary schools.
It’s vital that schools follow the guidance for teaching #RSE, with parental engagement and proper consideration for pupils’ religion and background. Yesterday, I made this clear to Education ministers in response to a petition signed by 1,763 #Birmingham #Ladywood constituents. pic.twitter.com/M3Whe4SgDs
— Shabana Mahmood (@ShabanaMahmood) February 26, 2019
Many critics have called the speech shameful and homophobic.
Hundreds of predominantly Muslim parents at the Parkfield Primary removed their children from the school on Friday in protest at the No Outsiders lessons.
The school removed the lesson and in a letter to the parents it said,
“Up to the end of this term, we will not be delivering any No Outsiders lessons in our long term year curriculum plan, as this half term has already been blocked for religious education (RE).
“Equality assemblies will continue as normal and our welcoming No Outsiders ethos will be there for all.
The school has now confirmed that they have put the lessons on hold and will, according to The Guardian, “resume only after a full consultation with every parent”.
The letter continued,
“The discussions were a helpful first step and identified the key issues that are concerning parents, including the ethos, the books, the age appropriateness, the lessons and the assemblies. The agreed outcome of the meeting was the need to have a discussion with the school community about the No Outsiders curriculum and how it should be delivered.”
Some parents have argued that their children are “too young” to be learning about same-sex relationships.
One mother, Fatima Shah said,
“We are not a bunch of homophobic mothers. We just feel that some of these lessons are inappropriate. Some of the themes being discussed are very adult and complex and the children are getting confused.
“They need to be allowed to be children rather than having to constantly think about equalities and rights.”
What are critics saying?
Shame on you. SHAME.
— Tony Blaney (@Tonyblaney) March 5, 2019
Homophobic, offensive. Amazes me that you can all discriminate freely against our community but you demand acceptance and understanding from everyone else. This breaks my heart. You should be ashamed. Religion is not religion if it is not inclusive, it’s a cult.
— Lee Knight (@theleeknight) March 5, 2019
Shameful hurtful homophobic bigotry. Right there. Right now in 21st century Great Britain.
— Mark Binmore (@MarkBinmore) March 5, 2019
Shabana, I am genuinely sad about the position you’ve taken. What I love most about this country is our diversity. We NEED MP’s who reflect our diversity, but along with that, those MP’s must also respect the diversity of others. It’s a great shame you’ve chosen not to do that.
— Dr Maia Newley (@MettaFilms) March 4, 2019
Your suggestion that kids knowing gay people exist is not “age appropriate” is the oldest homophobic trope in the book – smearing gays as predatory and peadophiles. This speech is courting serious bigotry for the sake of pandering to a section of your core vote.
— Benjamin Butterworth (@benjaminbutter) March 4, 2019
There is an appropriate age to learn about the existence of LGBT people, and that age is “from birth”. We fail the next generation of LGBT people, and the generations who were let down by Section 28, if we support the idea parents have a right to demand the erasure of LGBT people https://t.co/99J1dCdpET
— Calum Sherwood (@CalumSSherwood) March 4, 2019