Troubled morals;Leading Article;Opinion

17th December 1999 at 00:00
WHEN the Scottish Executive promised to repeal Section 28 of the Local Government Act, it looked like chalking up an easy victory against a silly legacy from the days of Tory rule. Scotland had never seemed a likely hotbed for homosexual propaganda in schools. The risk of homophobia based on legislation was more of a risk.

But never count on moral reform going through easily. An unholy alliance of the churches and one of the bodies supposedly speaking for parents is trying to prevent MSPs from using their common sense. None of the opponents is of course directly homophobic. Even Cardinal Thomas Winning, who set the hare running in a newspaper article, referred only to the "disorder" of homosexuality. But the protesters cannot avoid leaving the suspicion of homosexuals preying on young people, perhaps not directly but through discussion of gay and lesbian issues in a way which is at present forbidden.

The absurdity, painful to the homosexual community, is clear when one remembers that children from a young age are addicted to soap operas, few of which these days would feel compete without an exploration of just the issues to be avoided in schools. Sheltering children from the complexities of sexual behaviour is impossible.

Teachers should be free to address the issues in an appropriate context and at an appropriate time. The Scottish School Board Association has latched on to a publication which it claims deals in homosexual perversion. It fails to recognise that teachers are used to exercising discretion in deciding what books to read with their classes and what materials to allow in circulation.

The SSBA as moral guardian is not a pretty sight, and the Scottish Parent Teacher Council, not for the first time, takes a different view in representing parental opinion. MSPs must not be deterred from repealing an unnecessary and offensive provision. Guidance teachers in particular must be free to listen to and discuss worries about sexual orientation.

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