Ireland: LGBT Teachers’ Group marks its 10th anniversary
The lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Teachers’ Group of the Irish National Teachers' Organisation (INTO), affiliated to Education International (EI), will mark its 10th anniversary with an education conference themed “The Inclusive School”.
The conference, to be held on 22 November in the capital city, Dublin, will explore and highlight how school communities can become more inclusive.
INTO LGBT Teachers’ Group Chairperson Anne Marie Lillis, together with INTO General Secretary Sheila Nunan, the Irish Minister of State for New Communities, Culture and Equality Aodhán Ó Riordáin T.D., and Senator Ivana Bacik, will be among the key speakers.
The conference will acknowledge the Group’s work since its inaugural meeting in 2004 and will mark another step in Ireland’s journey toward the full inclusion of LGBT individuals and their families in all primary schools.
“LGBT inclusion is something that we now fully recognise must be talked about in primary schools,” said Lillis. “That first meeting in November 2004 not only affirmed our rightful place in our trade union but also our rightful place in the primary school classrooms of this country.”
That initial meeting helped to formulate a vision for the kind of inclusive schools that promote equality for all that LGBT teachers want to teach in, she said.
Helpful resources launched
Most importantly, at the conference, the Group will launch a poster with teaching guidelines called ‘Different Families, Same Love’, as well as a short video on ‘The Inclusive School’. These resources will raise awareness and stimulate discussion about diversity and inclusion in primary schools.
“We are very excited about these resources,” Lillis continued. “The poster ‘Different Families, Same Love’, along with teaching guidelines, was developed by four members of the Group and will highlight the importance of discussing diverse family structures in all primary schools. It will enable all school authorities to discuss modern families in a child friendly manner.”
Legislative change sought
She also emphasised that, while the conference is a positive event for the INTO LGBT Teachers’ Group as it goes from strength to strength, there are still serious concerns for Irish LGBT teachers due to the continued threat of discrimination caused by Section 37.1 of the Employment Equality Act. Section 37.1 refers to discrimination against persons in institutions set up for religious purposes or to promote religious objectives. The INTO strongly believes that current plans to amend this piece of legislation do not go far enough to ensure the protection of LGBT teachers’ right to a safe and fair working environment.
“The Act still casts a long shadow over the lives of LGBT teachers and the only way to remove this fear and discrimination is through deletion,” said Lillis. “Without deletion of Section 37.1, ambiguity will always remain for LGBT teachers in discussing their daily lives. We must be assured that religious ethos cannot be manipulated and used as a justification for creating a homophobic environment in our schools.”
The Group will continue to strive for the eradication of Section 37.1 and wish to see the day where it is unremarkable to be an LGBT worker in the education sector.
EI: LGBT issues under review at 2015 EI Congress
EI’s General Secretary, Fred van Leeuwen, said “At its 2015 World Congress in Ottawa, Canada, EI will report back on progress and challenges on achieving equality and inclusion in education institutions and education unions. The EI survey on Gender Equality and Diversity will present the findings on Gender Equality, Indigenous Peoples, Inclusive environments and LGBT teachers and students.”