Disclaimer: This article is the opinion of the author and does not necessarily reflect that of all Teachers' Christian Fellowship members.
Working with LGBT students
John Gore’s article, The challenges of LGBT students, in April TCF News has stimulated plenty of discussion and controversy. I would like to share my experiences as Head Teacher Welfare and in other teaching positions I have held. I would be happy to hear the experiences of other Christian teachers.
At the school I taught at from 1983-1997 we had on occasion a School Development Day session on the Anti-Discrimination Act 1977. This was the result of female teachers taking offence at a cartoon drawn and displayed by a male teacher. As a follow up a group of teachers, including myself, were trained as Anti-Discrimination Contact Officers.
The responsibility of all schools, public, private, catholic, Christian and any other category is clearly explained with regard to LGBT students in sections 38A, 38B, 38K, 49ZF, 49ZG, and 49ZO of the Anti-Discrimination Act 1977. The Act can be accessed on the Internet for those teachers not familiar with the legislation. In addition to the right of LGBT students to enrol in any school they have a right to be safe from all forms of bullying and discrimination by staff and students.
As Head Teacher Welfare and in other welfare roles prior to 1998, I was responsible for writing and implementing school Anti-Bullying Policies in two schools. This included taking students through workshops on Discrimination and Harassment. There are excellent resources for schools on the Australian Human Rights Commission web site.
The school I taught at from 1998-2014 enrolled three trans-gender students. When the first trans-gender student was enrolled the staff received training from legal branch of the DET. Bulletin 55 Trans-gender Students available on the DET web site contains valuable guidelines.
There are many issues a Christian needs to consider when dealing with discrimination of LGBT students. The scriptures are very clear in God’s attitude towards permissive homosexual behaviours as is evident in Genesis 16-19, Judges 19:13-20:48, Romans 1:23-27, 1 Corinthians 6:9, 1Timothy 1:9-10. However the scriptures also teach that Christians are to obey the laws governments put in place (Luke 20:25, Romans 13:1-7, Hebrews 13:17, 1Peter 2:13-15). Obedience to the law was the reason I did not go on strike as a teacher, I worked for the government, not the union! Obedience to the law was the reason I implemented the Anti-Discrimination Act at work.
The language students used to bully others, whether or not they were gay, would be condemned by all Christian teachers, whether used in the classroom or the playground. I consistently condemned the use of inappropriate language and explained the implications of the Anti-Discrimination Act and the school’s Anti-Bullying Policy. When necessary students were explained the consequences. In a public school I had to work with two executive members who were homosexuals. Their sexuality never entered into any actions, conversation or policy of these staff members. Jesus did not shun sinners. All executive knew that I was a Christian. One of our autistic students who excelled in Maths, Science and Visual Arts dropped out of school because she was being bullied because her mother was gay. She was not a lesbian, but students asserted she was. Her anxiety levels were always very high, causing serious meltdowns in class frequently. She could not cope with the bullying.
One of the more difficult cases presented to me was a gay student in Year 12 who believed his teacher was discriminating against him. As his teacher was responsible for his assessment this was a serious allegation and difficult to deal with. The school I taught at for 17 years had Tolerance as a school value, so we tended to attract a greater number of LGBT than other schools in the area. Decisions had to be made to deal with their behaviour. When gay or lesbian students were seen cuddling or kissing the school rule put in place was no kissing whether heterosexual or gay. This is not discriminatory.
I have been told that LGBT students do not enrol in Christian schools. This is simply not true. I know of a boy at a Christian school who committed suicide because of the bullying he received as a gay student. His devastated parents had no idea that he was gay.
How is a Christian teacher to cope in this new world? It is essential to show these students the love of Christ as He would have. Only by providing a safe loving school environment can you then be in a position to teach them the gospel of repentance. On another day, I am happy to present the biological evidence for transgender children seeking gender reassignment, but that’s for a different article.
Retired Head Teacher Welfare, practising Christian and TCF member.