Protection for teachers
Niamh on lessons the government seem to be learning
A couple of months ago I wrote a post about being a gay teacher in a primary school and the difficulties I had with coming out to my staff. But here’s some good news folks, some T.D.s read my post and now are going to change the law. Gaelick changing the world!!!! No not really, my post had nothing to do with it, but the law is going to change! Senator Ivana Bacik (also known as “my God how is she not a T.D.”) and four other Labour T.D.s have introduced a bill which includes an amendment to the Section 37.1 of the Employment Equality Act.
Section 37.1 basically allowed religious institutions to discriminate against individuals if they did not promote the ethos of the school or hospital. This adversely affected teachers as 90% of Irish primary schools are Catholic. Director of Education Policy with GLEN, Sandra Irwin-Gowan had this to say about the new bill
While no case has yet been brought which alleges discrimination in this context, the threat implied by Section 37.1 has acted as a ‘chill factor’ for lesbian and gay teachers. It has meant that employees or prospective employees, whose lives may possibly be interpreted to be contrary to the religious ethos of some religions, have lived in fear for their jobs and their prospects within their employment.
I know personally what it’s like to live in fear of losing your job. You’re afraid of being seen out in a gay club, you’re afraid to click attend to an event on facebook page, to tag yourself in a photo from a night out, to tell your colleagues about your other half, being afraid to challenge homophobic comments from staff. The change that this bill will make to my life, and that of my friends and other teachers, is hard to capture.
In my opinion, this new bill is doing much more than provide legal security, it signals a culture change that is happening in Irish education at the moment. This bill, in addition to the recent Action Plan on Bullying which placed a significant focus on homophobic bullying, are eradicating the culture of silence that existed on these issues before. Visibility is key and groups like the INTO LGBT Teachers’ Group have been essential in the last number of year in promoting visibility by marching in Pride and speaking at conferences.
A huge step
I doubt if and when this bill passes that all LGBT teachers are going to come singing and dancing out of the closet, but at least it will allow those of us who want to, to become visible. We all know how important visibility is so I’ll finish with a quote from Harvey Milk.
Every gay person must come out. As difficult as it is, you must tell your immediate family. You must tell your relatives. You must tell your friends if indeed they are your friends. You must tell the people you work with. You must tell the people in the stores you shop in. Once they realize that we are indeed their children, that we are indeed everywhere, every myth, every lie, every innuendo will be destroyed once and all. And once you do, you will feel so much better