Parents ‘appalled’ at school’s refusal to teach about ‘same-sex friendships’

Wicklow school’s religious ethos ‘censoring’ children’s questions in RSE class, says group

A group of parents of children attending a Co Wicklow primary school have expressed anger at the school's decision to exclude teaching about "same-sex friendships" and contraception from relationships and sexuality education (RSE).

Education Equality, a voluntary parent-led rights group, said that it was "appalled" that Lacken National School in Blessington had told parents in a letter of April 5th last that "teachers do not cover topics such as contraception and same-sex friendships" in the school's RSE programme.

Parents were told in the letter that “children who ask questions in class on content outside the designated curriculum are encouraged to discuss the issues with their parents.”

“Parents are informed and asked to talk to their child,” the letter continued.

Last year, in response to protests from parents, the school said that it would not use Flourish, an RSE programme or resource developed by the Catholic Church for primary school children from junior infants up to sixth class.

Parents and the Education Equality advocacy group now representing them say that the latest letter from the school shows that it is continuing to ignore the wishes of parents by not teaching children about same-sex relationships and contraception.

David Graham, spokesman for Education Equality, said that parents representing a majority of children at the school last year requested that the school's approach to RSE be inclusive of LGBTQ+ relationships and free from religious ethos.

“Less than a year after receiving their letter, the school has ignored this request,” he said.

“By excluding any discussion of same-sex relationships in its classrooms, Lacken National School is compounding the sense of stigma and exclusion already felt by many LGBTQ+ children and families in the Irish education system.”

The school did not respond to requests for comment from The Irish Times.

‘Open-minded community’

One parent, who did not want to be named, said the latest letter was “so disrespectful and a slap in the face” to parents who wished to see the school’s teaching reflect the “open-minded community” in which their children are raised.

“It just seems that even though society has changed – and this is what society wants and parents do have rights to how our children are educated – the school can just decide: no, let us play this uber-Catholic card and not do that,” said the parent.

Lacken National School describes itself as a Catholic school under the patronage of the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin. A nominee of the archbishop sits on the school’s board of management.

Mr Graham said that it was very clear from the school’s recent letter that religious ethos was “influencing the delivery of RSE” at Lacken NS.

“The school is being influenced by ethos and is censoring what can or cannot be asked by pupils,” he said.

Education Equality has called on the Government to remove religious influence from the school curriculum, particularly in the area of relationships and sexuality education.