Free Schools reintroduce Section 28 style ban on ‘promotion’ of gay issues

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Update 18/08/13 00:15: It has emerged that the policy at Colston Girl’s School in Bristol was withdrawn in late June, and the school announced it would review the policy. It has emerged, however; that more free schools have introduced similar policies than originally reported. More to follow.

Two British schools have recently come under criticism for reintroducing terminology from Tory Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s Section 28 by banning the “promotion of homosexuality” in classrooms.

Castle View Enterprise Academy in Sunderland, Swindon Academy have reintroduced anti-gay language from Section 28, which banned the “promotion of homosexuality”, into their Sex and Relationships Policy.

The schools’ policies state that while “objective discussion of homosexuality may take place in the classroom, the governing body will not permit the promotion of homosexuality”.

When Tory Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher approved Section 28 in 1988, the controversial amendment banned teachers from discussing gay issues in the classroom. The law was eventually repealed in 2003.

Now the recent ban on the “promotion of homosexuality” in classrooms, which has arisen due to the lack of a national curriculum on Sex and Relationships Education (SRE), has been criticised for reinstating the same restrictions.

A petition was launched to campaign the school policies, claiming them to be “their own version of Section 28”.

Siobhan MacMahon, spokesperson for the LGBTIQ Green Party Group has also spoken out against the three schools: “It’s clear that there should be a national mandatory curriculum ensuring that every school gives students the information they need about sex and sexuality.

“The freedom granted to Academies and Free Schools to introduce such homophobic policy leaves LGBT students out in the cold.

“School must be a safe space for LGBT students and teachers, the reintroduction of Section 28s does not allow for that”.

Section 28 stated that a local authority “shall not intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality” and that schools “could not promote of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship”.

Section 28 was introduced by the then Conservative backbencher Jill Knight, now a member of the House of Lords. The 90-year-old peer has recently resurfaced into the news following her criticism of the same-sex marriage act, and her strange attempts at justifying her opposition by making platitudes, such as suggesting gay people are good with “antiques”.

In an exclusive interview with PinkNews in June, gay Tory MP Conor Burns claimed that Margaret Thatcher did not have a problem with gay people despite her signing Section 28 into law.

He said: “She had a number of people, who you could identify by reading stuff about her, very close to her who were openly gay. She had no problem with that.

“The Section 28 stuff has taken a somewhat mythical status. Section 28 was a backbench amendment to a Local Government Bill. This was not something that was hatched in the flat of Number 10 when she was making Denis his bacon and eggs in the morning.”