The State of Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual in Irish Catholic Controlled Schools

Irish Education deserves a secular chance too – for what ye teach ye shall reap; waiting for the day the Church takes its teachings back to the Church;

Posted by Melanie, Jan 01, 2012

Patrick Dempsey (19) often pretended to be sick in order to avoid attending school in Dublin’s inner city. The State of Gay in Irish schools, many of which are controlled by the Catholic Church, is all but unimaginable. Perhaps some change, though, could be afoot.

From Bullying of students to having to hide as teachers, the Catholic Church submits its thornier crown to those who are born to be Gay, lesbian, and bisexual.

Teachers in Irish schools fear they will face discrimination or possible termination if they reveal their sexuality, with this common theme the damage is clear.

Leo Kilroy, (34), who came out after leaving his post, used to teach in a Catholic run primary school in Dublin’s inner city: “There are consequences for coming out to co-workers. When you are in the school system, you are caught up in the ethos of the school, you are caught up in the silence.”

“You are aware that if you come out as a gay or a lesbian you may experience discrimination,” he noted in an expose by Reuters.

More than nine in ten primary school and half of all high schools are run by the church, reports Reuters,  with boards chaired by parish priests, who plays an influential role in the hiring and firing of employees.

“I know of gay teachers who have been passed over for promotion, they have been verbally abused and discriminated against and had to suffer jokes about gay or lesbian people.”  Kilroy noted.

Apparently Kilroy now lectures trainee teachers and is a treasurer of a group which represents lesbian, gay, and bisexual primary school teachers. The group has a mere 35 members, out of an estimated 31,000 teachers employed by the sector.

Dempsey, who dropped out of the Catholic run school in his final year, as it seemed the staff were ignoring the problem, noted in the article that “From first year right up until I left I had to deal with bullying, name-calling, being afraid to walk down a corridor. When you know someone is going to call you a faggot or a queer and you know you are going to be embarrassed in front of 30 or so odd people you are going to want to avoid that at all cost.”

“I think it came down to the ethos of the school because it was a Catholic school they didn’t have a specific policy towards homophobic bullying,” he told Reuters.

“It was so open in the school it was unbelievable. Homophobic language was used by one of the teachers.”

With teachers caught between a rock and a hard place, one wonders where the real support for the youth can be found other than in small NGO’s doing sideline work.

A Dublin-based gay youth services group called BeLonG says teenagers nowadays are starting to get more comfortable about coming out:

“There is a quiet revolution going on out there. The numbers of young people coming to BeLonG to have more than doubled each year for the last three. It’s quite phenomenal,” Michael Barron, the group’s co-founder told Reuters. Barron works alongside schools to raise awareness about lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender issues.

“Some of the best schools we have worked with have been religious schools but it certainly poses a barrier overall,” said Barron.

“The educational system still has that Catholic legacy and in some cases it’s more than a legacy, it’s still how things are taught.

“We would know of many gay teachers who aren’t out in schools. It is an issue. Those gay teachers could provide vital role-modeling for young people, particularly a young person who is struggling, who thinks they are the only gay or transgender young person in the world,” he concluded.

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