West Lothian pupil claims school made him remove Pride badge for 'promoting' homosexuality

A 16-year-old pupil from St Kentigern’s Academy in Blackburn was told to take off a Pride badge from his school uniform because it “promotes” homosexuality

A PUPIL FROM a school in West Lothian has claimed he was told not to wear a Pride badge on his school uniform because it “promotes” homosexuality.

The 16-year-old student, who attends St Kentigern’s Academy in Blackburn, West Lothian, was wearing the badge on his uniform after attending the Edinburgh Pride march last week.

The pupil, who wanted to remain anonymous, told Pink News that the instructions about not wearing the badge came from the head teacher, Mr Sharkey.

He said: “I was given no reason why, then after I got upset about it, I was told by the teacher who told me to take it off that the school had ‘no problem’ with me being gay, but however I’m ‘promoting’ it by wearing the badge.

“I was given no reason why, then after I got upset about it, I was told by the teacher who told me to take it off that the school had ‘no problem’ with me being gay, but however I’m ‘promoting’ it by wearing the badge.” Student from St Kentigern’s Academy

“I told them that I was refusing to take it off which was fed back to the head teacher. I was then told by another senior member of staff, whom I had a really good dialogue with, the exact same thing.”

A West Lothian Council spokesperson said that all pupils from St Kentigern’s Academy are asked to remove all non-school related badges from their uniforms in accordance with the school’s uniform policy.

The school promotes “love, faith, equality, inclusiveness, hope and respect” across the campus, and the pupil said he felt that the school was the only place he could display his sexuality because he had not told his parents.

However, he said a senior member of staff told him he had no need to wear a badge: “I wore the badge because it was the only place where I feel safe about my sexuality, and she told me ‘you don’t need to wear a badge for that’.”

“The suggestion that the wearing of a Pride badge is "promoting homosexuality" is not only incorrect but offensive.” Tie campaign spokesperson

A West Lothian spokesperson said: “West Lothian Council is committed to equal rights for LGBT people, and is the main supporter of West Lothian Pride. We are also a Stonewall Diversity Champion for our work to promote inclusivity.”

The Time for Inclusion Education (Tie) campaign, which campaigns for LGBT-inclusive education in schools, said it was disappointed but not surprised by the claims emerging from St Kentigern’s Academy.

A Tie spokesperson said: “For almost two years now we have been campaigning for an LGBTI inclusive educational approach in all schools to help eradicate homophobia, biphobia and transphobia. A crucial aspect of our work is challenging negative or prejudicial attitudes towards LGBTI learners. 

“Schools can take the lead here, and a central part of their efforts should be around encouraging visibility - alongside a whole school approach towards LGBTI inclusion. The suggestion that the wearing of a Pride badge is ‘promoting homosexuality’ is not only incorrect, but offensive. 

“If a school believes that celebrating love and equality is something to be hidden, serious questions need to be asked about that school.” Scottish Labour MSP Monica Lennon

“We would urge the school in question to rethink their approach here, and we would be more than happy to work alongside them in order to help create a more inclusive environment for all of their staff and pupils.”

Scottish Labour’s inequalities spokesperson, Monica Lennon, said: “Sadly LGBTI inclusive education is still a right to be fought for in Scotland's schools.

“If a school believes that celebrating love and equality is something to be hidden, serious questions need to be asked about that school.

“The Scottish Government must work at pace towards enshrining LGBTI inclusive education in law to prevent more young people being failed.”

“Our education system must support all Scotland’s young people to reach their full potential and we established the LGBTI inclusive education working group to examine how the education experience for LGBTI young people in Scotland can be improved.” Scottish Government spokesperson

Currently, the Scottish Government does not have any statutory curriculum guidance for children, parents and schools to deal with LGBT+ issues, but the LGBTI inclusive education working group was announced by Deputy First Minister John Swinney last April.

This follows on from the SNP spring conference in March, where delegates called on the Scottish Government to set up a working group, in conjunction with Tie, to take forward the group’s pledges.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Our education system must support all of Scotland’s young people to reach their full potential, and we established the LGBTI inclusive education working group to examine how the education experience for LGBTI young people in Scotland can be improved.

“The working group, which includes education leaders such as the EIS, equalities experts and young people, as well as representatives of the Tie campaign, met for the first time in May. We look forward to receiving its recommendations in due course.”

Other organisations taking part in the working group include Cosla, the Equality and Human Rights Commission, Education Scotland and Stonewall Scotland.

Picture courtesy of The Pink News

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