Sixth-year pupil Adam McElroy writes about how the Scottish Catholic Education Service blocked a Scottish Youth Parliament consultation, because it asked about LGBT issues.
A number of months ago the Scottish Youth Parliament, the democratically elected voice of young people, launched its 2015 manifesto consultation. This consultation took the form of a survey and asked young people their opinions on a wide scope of issues from education and youth work, to rights and social justice.
The survey was handed out on four sheets of different colours, one of which was known as the ‘red sheet’. This red sheet asked young people their opinion on certain LGBT issues, gender equality, and other such topics.
In denominational schools across the country it was recommended that these ‘red sheets’ (and only the red sheets) were not handed out.
The order to withhold the sheet, as far as I am aware, came from the SCES (Scottish Catholic Education Service). I, and a number of other pupils, understood this as an act of direct discrimination against the LGBT community and students who support the community.
Orchestrating the specific segregation of a sheet which allowed students to show support for that community, I would argue, constitutes treating a minority group differently (and worse) on account of their protected characteristic. It has been argued that those actions were in breach of legislation put in place to protect against discrimination for example, the equality act 2010 and the united nations convention of the rights of the child.
The United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child states in Article 12:
“Young people have the right to express their views freely and have their opinions listened to in all matters affecting them”.
The decision to explicitly withhold the red sheet hinders our ability as young people to express our views if they support the LGBT/Gender fluid community, even though we do so through channels provided by the democratically elected voice of our generation within schools.
I would say there is no better place to define the character of a young person than in school, and if institutions of religious authority are making these kind of decisions then it is about time we removed this kind of bias from the educational system.
Trends in the 2011 consensus show that religious identification is steadily decreasing, this therefore adds substance to claims that no faith should be dominant in schools. Instead young people should be able to work together in facilities which are run to educate not indoctrinate a population.
Morality exists out with religion.
A religious education is not a requirement to become a decent human being with good integral values. At the end of the day if you are to favour one religion over another an innate and institutionalised bias is unavoidable.
The SCES refused to respond when contact was made. The Education Secretary, Angela Constance, was too no help at the time. Demonstrating the ease with which these institutions wave off the concerns of young people.
Thanks to the support of the TIE (Time for inclusive education) campaign there is now a platform of support for pupils concerned with these issues. As long as religious institutions are given the authority to dictate the doctrine of our educational services these injustices and bias decisions are inevitable.
We must, as a society, work towards creating an educational environment which is free from the realm of difference. In this environment children must be allowed to develop as they wish – to be who they are.
In the words of Richard Dawkins “segregation has no place in the education system” and I couldn’t agree more.
The presence of religious opinion as an official (unfair and illegitimate) authority is damaging to our youth as a whole as it doesn’t allow sufficient space in which they can grow.
By Adam McElroy
Sixth Year Pupil
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