Section 28 injustice

February 18, 2000

Everyone who teaches young people has had to cope with the fall-out from the near hysterical debate on the repeal of Section 28.

It is recognised throughout the teaching profession that Section 28 promotes and maintains an atmosphere of fear and self-censorship among staff and students. It is not only a case of denying lesbian and gay pupils support against homophobic bullying, it also creates barriers for teachers seeking to educate students for life. Teachers have a legitimate right to contribute not only to their students' knowledge but also to their confidence, sense of value and self-esteem regardless of race, gender or sexuality.

To their credit, most young people accept and respect differences in sexuality. More than two-thirds of 15 to 24-year-olds want to dump the clause.

In the post-Stephen Lawrence era, public institutions have at last embraced the idea that racism is unacceptable, yet the guardians of those same institutions can see no contradiction in the view that implies that homophobia is OK.

Many of us in education had hoped that the new Labour government and a modernised House of Lords would correct the injustice of Section 28. We hope the decision-makers will not be swayed by the prejudices of the last century, but seize the opportunity to create a fully inclusive society.

Paul Mackney and Gerard Kelly Natfhe, London WC1

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