Friday, 11 March 2011

Thanks a lot Hogwarts


A few days ago I dared to be cautiously optimistic of a progressive, accepting generation arriving in the future. And, naturally, not two days after said proclamation, something happened to take that optimism, drag it behind the chemical sheds, and shoot it.
For a while now I have been involved with a group of friends who, humorously, refer to themselves as Dumbledore’s Army, and refer to their school as Hogwarts. Humour can survive in the most adverse of conditions, but there is a reason why they have to be secretive. And, sadly, it is because of homophobia in a legitimate authority; those who run “Hogwarts”.
Now, I would like to tell you where “Hogwarts” is, I’d like to tell you the people responsible for the severely depressing stories I am receiving. But I cannot, because to do so would be to bring all hell down on Dumbledore’s Army, my friends, and probably on myself. What I will tell you is what is happening, because although I have to obscure the truth for the safety of others, I will still put out as much of it as possible. Gay students are being reported to their parents, some of which hold strong anti-homosexual beliefs, by teachers. This is breaking confidentiality laws (a student’s sexuality is not considered “dangerous” and so cannot be reported to parents against the student’s wishes). As can be imagined, this has led to considerable mental distress when the students get home. The gay community in the school is being oppressed, in subtle ways. They are not allowed to have an official meeting group, for fear it might agitate other students. The views of homophobic parents are being put in front of the safety and wellbeing of students.
And worse is the hypocrisy. Despite the illegal practices of the teacher(s), Dumbledore’s Army have been told that they should have more faith in the teachers. However, it is evident that any faith or confidence would be severely misplaced, and possibly dangerous.
I try and be objective on this blog. I fail often, especially when an issue such as this arises. However, I will provide what small defence I can for “Hogwarts”. One is that, I am not in it. Any information I hear is second-hand, from the Dumbledore’s Army and my friends in it. Although I trust them, I cannot rule out warping of information. There might also have been extraneous situational variables that made the teacher(s)’ decisions more rational (and, I suppose, more legal).
Well, that’s all the defence I can think of. Talking to students involved, I quickly realised it was hard to justify and rationalise the school’s decisions, but at least I tried.
So, my optimism has not been crushed, but it has been dulled. When institutes of education are poisoning the seeds of acceptance when they should be nurturing it, I am forced to dull my optimism.

1 comment:

  1. I don't know about student-teacher confidentiality, but this looks to me like it could be a breach of equality laws. The school is required not to victimise or discriminate against pupils based on their sexuality, terms which can get interpreted quite widely. It may even have a positive duty to encourage equality and good relations (I don't know if this section applies to schools).

    If what's going on really is serious, they should try to keep a record of the school's actions and any action they take. I'm not suggesting this is the best route to take, but it would probably be possible to get support from the EHRC.

    All that said, the fact that we can talk about this being against the law is still progress. It was only in 2004 that section 28 was repealed. I remember a teacher shutting down a conversation because it strayed on to sexuality, and she was concerned about getting into trouble (for condoning rather than opposing homosexuality).