Jamaica’s Ministry of Education has revised the School Security and Safety Policy guidelines in order to include the protection of LGBT youths from bullying within schools across the island.
The guidelines are set to be implemented by the start of the new academic year in September. It includes issues such as bullying to aspects of human trafficking, however, the inclusion to protect LGBT youths to combat bullying in school was met with disapproval by various groups across Jamaica.
Jamaica’s Minister of Education, Rev. Ronald Thwaites, reminded the public that the guidelines will address acts of bullying by and against all persons.
“Bullying not only affects this society (LGBT), as we have heard reports of issues with regards to older students interfering with younger students, issues of gender also arise, all of which offer a clear position on offering zero tolerance for bullying of any sort. The manual is now being prepared and will be fleshed out in short order.”
However, the Inner-City Teacher Coalition proclaims that the guidelines favored LGBT students and that heterosexual students faced more bullying from groups practicing an alternative lifestyle is much more widespread.
“Statements that have been reported in the media that have been attributed to the minister has singled out the fact that students who practice or appear to be practicing alternative lifestyles are being bullied and that measures are now being put in place to reduce these incidents in our schools.”
They continued, “These groups are known to prey on weaker students and intimidate them with a view to pressure them to join the alternative lifestyle that is being practiced by the group. Whenever the advances of members of the group is resisted, oftentimes the students are assaulted physically and sometimes even sexually.”
Reverend Thwaites reiterated that the government had the right to protect all its citizens including the LGBT community.
“A number of civil society groups, including members of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender), fraternity, have raised with me, issues of bullying. It is of serious concern and the policy of Government and of the ministry (of education) is to protect the sexual integrity of everyone, so the fact that they raise the concern would be an important issue for us.”
The Jamaican government has received criticisms from local and international human rights group over the country’s homophobic culture. Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller ran on a campaign to improve the conditions of the LGBT community in Jamaica, and this move is seen as a step in that direction.
[Image via The Huffington Post]