Belfast Telegraph

Schools no place to 'promote homosexuality,' says Wells as Education Authority delays LGBT staff support network over concerns

Jim Wells said the Education Authority should focus on the
Jim Wells said the Education Authority should focus on the "real" crisis in the Northern Ireland education system

Plans to set up a support group for LGBT teachers and education staff in Northern Ireland have been delayed after concerns were raised by a board member of the Education Authority.

The DUP MLA Jim Wells said he supported the concerns saying children should not have LGBT issues "forced down their throats" and they should be "allowed to remain innocent".

The Education Authority (EA) had been working on a LGBT staff network to promote inclusive work places and ensure that all EA teachers and staff members feel valued.

The BBC's Nolan Show has seen minutes of an EA board meeting which shows a newly appointed board member raised concerns the LGBT network could see tensions rise between LGBT staff members and boards of governors relating to the "ethos" of their schools.

The board member suggested that the EA business plan should be deferred for one month to allow further examination of the terms of reference for the LGBT staff network.

DUP MLA Jim Wells, who does not speak for the party since having the whip withdrawn, told the Nolan Show: "Once again we have a government-funded body who should be dealing with the real crisis in education, which is under funding, it is empty desks in schools, its buildings that are falling down around their heads. That is the important issue."

Mr Wells said that he was concerned that a LGBT network would put pressure on education authorities to "teach" homosexuality to young children.

"Children should be allowed to remain innocent, they should not be taught this, particularly when they are very young and we certainly should not allow schools to be used to promote homosexuality," he said.

"It should not happen, they should be allowed to get on with their lives without having this forced down their throats."

The South Down MLA also asked why there was not a support network for Christian teachers working in Northern Ireland who feel they cannot expressed their religious freedom in the workplace.

Fidelma Carolan, regional education officer for Unison, said: "I am not aware of any Christian person who works in a school or for the EA that has ever been told that they shouldn't identify as a Christian and obviously all Christians are welcome to identify within their domination or any religious belief.

"Secondly, we are talking about a staff network- this is about supporting staff. There is evidence that shows that staff who are not able to be out at work, it will impact on their mental health, there relationships with other staff.

"As a trade union we want to make sure that staff are supported."

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