Senator Sharon Keogan — Inappropriate sex-ed in Schools
Updated: Feb 15
I asked the Cathaoirleach and ushers to facilitate me in ensuring that there were no young children in the Gallery. I appreciate that. The Leader may have seen some of the work done last month by the Irish Women's Lobby. It took a deep dive into some reading material that has been recommended for schoolchildren by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment, NCCA. While many books seemed innocent and helpful enough, a few other entries jumped out. Notably, one book offers detailed instruction on manually bringing men to sexual climax, anal sex and oral sex, with accompanying childish cartoons. The book, titled "This Book is Gay", is written by James Dawson. It is aimed at the junior cycle and it informs children as young as 12 that "perhaps the most important skill you will master as a gay or bi man is the timeless classic, the hand job. The good news is, you can practice on yourself.". While the book is tagged as being for the over-12 or young adult category, it is found on the Rainbow Book List, a project supported by An Post and Children's Books Ireland, which is included in all resource listings for junior infants onwards.
I am sure many members of the LGBT community would share these concerns regarding children and age-appropriate material. The literature about heterosexual relationships does not seem to be as graphic, for whatever reason. It is not a cherrypicked example from a sea of similar content. It is just that inappropriate content happens to be in this particular book. The NCCA leaves it up to individual teachers as to which material they will use, choosing from a list which spans children from birth to 18 years. According to the Irish Women's Lobby, warnings for teachers to note the recommended age range and ensure it is suited for the class levels they teach were only added after the issues were flagged by the NCCA. Parents send their children to school and expect them to come back able to do long division and recite a little Robert Frost, not to be able to inform their parents, as the book states, "each guy has become very used to his own way of getting himself off.".
Nobody voted for this. I assure Members that there would be uproar if this was known by parents throughout the country. Can the Minister, Deputy Foley, urgently address the concerns of these parents and ensure that any and all material used in our schools is age-appropriate? I would say that there needs to be serious repercussions for whoever sanctioned this. It does not reflect the wishes of Irish parents and should not be acceptable in our schools.