The religious ethos in the Irish school system is causing “real harm to families all around the country”, according to a parents’ advocacy group.
It comes after a school in Blessington County Wicklow told parents it would not be including contraception or same-sex relationships in its sex education classes.
Parents at Lacken National School (LNS) have said they were “appalled” to hear teachers at the school will not cover “topics such as contraception and same sex friendships”.
The school said children who ask questions about either topic will be told to talk to their parents about it.
1. Education Equality is appalled at exclusion of “same sex friendships” and contraception from relationships & sexuality education at Lacken NS, Blessington, Co Wicklow. Parents had previously requested that RSE “should be free from the influence of a religious ethos” pic.twitter.com/OKtj6eFByX
— Education Equality (@edu_equal) April 25, 2022
On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, Education Equality spokesperson David Graham said a majority of parents at the school last year signed letter calling for Relationships and Sexual Education (RSE) to be “fact-based” and “free from the influence of religious ethos”.
“As you can imagine, the parents, when they received this letter to the effect that the school would not allow teachers to talk about contraception or same-sex relationships – or even same sex friendships as they refer to them – in the classroom, that is hugely disappointing,” he said.
Mr Graham said the school’s idea of contacting parents when a child asks a question about contraception or same sex relationships is ‘totally inadequate’.
“What do you think the impact will be on a child in the classroom who is being brought up by same sex parents if they won’t talk about that family type in the classroom?” he asked.
“This issue of religious ethos in our schools is causing real harm to families all around the country and it is simply not good enough to say you can go home and talk to your parents.
“Yes, of course parents have an important education role on this issue but at the same time, the RSE programme within our publicly funded schools should comply with the views of the State and should be consistent with the Constitution.
“It should not be overriding the Constitution or ignoring the Constitution by pretending that all relationships are between men and women – because that’s simply not true.”
He said the situation at LNS is a “microcosm of a much, much wider national problem”.
He said schools still have a right to “play the ethos card” when it comes to RSE “even if all the parents in the school, or the majority of parents, say this is not what they want”.
“They can play the ethos card but it’s important to note that they are under no obligation to do that,” he said.
“There are a number of Catholic-run schools that actually take part in the ‘Different Families, Same Love’ competition which is a competition run by the LGBT group with the Irish National Teachers Organisation (INTO).
“So, there is an inconsistency of approach here even among catholic run schools.”
Newstalk has contacted Lacken National School for comment.
Main image shows children in a classroom. Image: Universal Images Group North America LLC / Alamy Stock Photo