Get It Right MOE

The Guidance and Counselling Unit ensures that the school facilities which are in place are effectively utilised for the total development of the individual student[…]

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photo credit: Jamaica Gleaner

I read with concern the comments uttered by the President of the Jamaica Teachers’ Association regarding how Guidance Counsellors are expected to treat with students who identify as lesbian or gay. In his esteemed thinking and understanding of Jamaican legislation Norman Allen declared that we could not reasonably expect Guidance Counsellors to provide counselling, care, and support for students who identify as [lesbian or] gay.

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Excerpt from the Offences Against the Person Act 1864

As justification, he cited the existence of the Offences Against the Person Act (where the ‘Buggery Law’ is located), which prohibits anal sex between males, AND between males and females. The Act, among other things also prohibits any form of (sexual) intimacy between males.

Side note:  the Act is completely silent on sexual behaviour between females.

By his analysis, if for example, a female heterosexual student shares with a guidance counsellor that she is engaging in anal sex with her boyfriend, then that Guidance Counsellor should not provide counselling, care, and support for the student. Again, by his analysis, if a student (perpetrator) was guilty of assaulting another student, then the perpetrator should not receive counselling, care, or support from the school’s Guidance Counsellor.

His logic baffles me at best.

Perhaps the time has come for the Ministry of Education to proactively engage all categories of school staff, especially Guidance Counsellors on a Sexuality 101 sensitisation within the context our legal framework. And include a reminder in all of this that the wellbeing of our children must be their (our) priority, in keeping with this excerpt from the Ministry of Education’s website:

The Guidance and Counselling Unit ensures that the school facilities which are in place are effectively utilised for the total development of the individual student, to enable him or her to lead a more fulfilling life. The unit develops services and programmes for the personal/social, educational, and career development of all students. In addition, the unit coordinates the training and development of counsellors in schools and is responsible for several programmes including the HIV/AIDS Programme in Schools, the Programme for Alternative Student Support, the Safe Schools Programme and the Health and Family Life Education in Schools.

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