Elshot favors teachers’ workshop on LGBT rights

POSTED: 12/15/14 10:27 PM

St. Maarten—The rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and transgender (LGBT) teachers and students will be discussed at the next ASCD- gathering of the national teachers– if a request of Witu President Claire Elshot to have this point included is granted. Elshot recently attended the CUT biennial conference in Belize where the attendees received a presentation on these rights by a human rights lawyer. According to Elshot said that there is growing concern among educators about what happens once a student identifies as homosexual or lesbian.

“Some awareness should to be created pertaining to what is happening internationally, the international human rights etc, the choice of sexuality etc. But you cannot create awareness if you yourself are not well equipped. So within the teaching force this should become a discussion point,” Elshot said yesterday.

A number of presentations were made at the recently concluded CUT biennial conference and executive meeting in Belize, including a presentation on gender equality in education and the presentation from the human rights attorney on the rights of LGBT teachers and students.

Elshot told members of the media that the Witu plans to discuss these detailed presentations with the board of the Witu and then the decision will be made as to whether a workshop on the rights of LGBT teachers and students is necessary. She explained that if the decision is taken to host this workshop it will be a coordinated effort with stakeholders and will be geared at all teachers on the island. The union head also feels it is necessary to have an expert in this area make a presentation to the attendees. She noted that for many teachers this is new ground so it is imperative that the teachers themselves first receive the necessary knowledge to better equip them to deal appropriately with situations that arise.

At the CUT conference delegates received information on the international human rights law on sexual orientation and gender identity, which Elshot said she intends to share with her fellow teachers. The training to empower educators as allies and agents of change is also covered under that human rights law.  Elshot, who is also a school principal, noted that teachers are already encountering incidents involving lesbian and gay students at school.

The Witu head said that there were different views expressed by teachers at the conference on this subject and she believes it will remain on the agenda for the next CUT conference as it’s an ongoing issue. “There are live issues that are now manifesting themselves, in the schools, in the classrooms and even under the teachers. It is something that we cannot turn a blind eye on. International developments, human rights, are also bringing out certain policies in protection of and giving the freedom to choose,” Elshot noted.

She added that the way that things are developing and especially the number of fights that occur because of these issues is a growing concern for educators. “Some people believe that students are being exploited in this alley and the concern is that these things are manifesting themselves in the schools and its playing out not only in a positive way but also in some negative ways,” Elshot explained. She noted that there have been incidents where boys who are known to be gay have been beaten up by other boys as well as girls who are lesbians acting overly aggressive towards other girls. She believes that the need for more discussion on the subject which will eventually involve parents and students is necessary.

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