This week has seen the Department for Education (DfE) trending on social media for hanging around with the wrong crowd. The move which hit the headlines was the DfE’s promotion of ‘One Britain One Nation’ day, a celebration of national values. But arguably, it was their endorsement of the LGBT+ youth charity Just Like Us which might see them sent to the head teacher’s office.
Just Like Us produce guidance, distributed for free during Schools’ Diversity Week to ‘celebrate the importance of LGBT+ equality in education.’ The group’s resources have been tweeted out by of several MPs including Education Secretary Gavin Williamson and Chair of the Women and Equalities Select Committee Caroline Noakes.
The teaching materials produced by Just Like Us are at best ideologically biased and at worst unlawful. Sample roleplay scenarios on ‘challenging HBTphobic bullying’ (i.e. Homophobic, Biphobic, Transphobic) include advising girls that they do not have the right to question males in female-only spaces. One slide taken from the Just Like Us guidance shows a picture of the 2018 Get the L Out protest alongside the text:
‘LGBT+ people still face prejudice from within the community. The image on the right is from Pride 2018 where a group of around 10 lesbians held up the march protesting against trans women’s rights.’
‘Even if you don’t fully ‘get’ someone’s identity you can still stand up for the right not to face discrimination, abuse, reduced life chances and poorer mental health.’
Get the L Out were furious about the misrepresentation of their protest. Group spokeswoman Angela Wild told Lesbian and Gay News:
‘Through their uncritical endorsement of Just Like Us, the Department for Education is enforcing a very dangerous ideology to girls in schools, especially those who might be beginning to think they may be same-sex attracted. Framing lesbian protestors and Get the L Out as ‘transphobic’ sends the clear message to a generation of girls that lesbianism is a form of hatred and that fighting for our rights for same sex attractions is bigoted.’
The Just Like Us tweet referencing the Get The L Out protest at Pride in 2018
‘At a time where Ofsted has reported that 9 out of 10 girls experience sexual violence, this is sending a dangerous message to girls their sexual boundaries are irrelevant and shouldn’t be respected… Get The L Out has worked for years to raise awareness on the issue of the #cottonceiling: the coercive and pernicious form of #rapeculture targeting lesbians. It is the idea that lesbians should accept penises in our sexual lives when these penises belong to men who call themselves women. We denounce this sexual pressure placed on lesbians and the framing of lesbians who reject this as “transphobic”. Same sex attraction is protected in-law. Yet the Department for Education is promoting unlawful anti-lesbianism as a form of progress. We are seeking legal advice about this.’
The Department for Education tweeted its support of the Just Like Us campaign
Jackie Doyle-Price MP questioned the use of the Get the L Out as an example of transphobia, stating on Twitter: ‘I see women defending their same sex attraction against a movement that condemns them as transphobic for not being attracted to transwomen. This LGBT+ charity has picked a side here. So much for school diversity week.’
Tania Carter of Safe Schools Alliance explained that not only do Just Like Us resources ‘undermine safeguarding’ but they also breach DfE guidance which advises schools ‘against reinforcing harmful stereotypes.’
‘Resources used in teaching about this topic must always be age-appropriate and evidence based. Materials which suggest that non-conformity to gender stereotypes should be seen as synonymous with having a different gender identity should not be used and you should not work with external agencies or organisations that produce such material. They also contravene section 407 of the 1996 Education Act ‘Duty to secure balanced treatment of political issues’. It is therefore deeply troubling to see them endorsed by the DfE and several MPs.’
The website of the charity Just Like Us
Labour’s Afzal Khan MP was so affronted at being questioned about his public support of Just Like Us on Twitter that he blocked the Safe Schools Alliance.
Sources at the DfE said: ‘We haven’t endorsed any teaching materials nor would we ever endorse anything that broke the law. We tweeted in support of a specific drive for equality and acceptance in schools.’
The decision by politicians and civil servants to endorse such a partisan campaign is astounding. Should our political classes and the Department for Education wish to retain credibility, they must do their homework and abide by the guidance which they themselves have set.