Parents have expressed shock that the Department of Education chose a book for Leaving Certificate students in which the 15-year-old main character fails to report a serious sexual assault she suffers at the hands of an adult male.
Titled “The Lauras”, the Leaving Certificate book follows the journey of Alex, a transgender 15-year-old whose trip across America is interspersed with several graphic sexual scenes, including being forced to perform oral sex on a grown man.
Speaking to Gript, a group of parents have warned that the book’s author, Sara Taylor, omits any notion of reporting the sexual assault to police, and that the fictional victim appears blasé at best about the attack in the immediate aftermath.
“It’s very irresponsible of both the department and the author to treat sexual assault in such a trivial way,” one parent said.
“The book effectively covers-up the sexual assault by failing to have the main character report the crime, and children reading it get no sense whatsoever that it would be the right thing to do in that situation.”
Another mother said that if education is about teaching children what is right and wrong, then this book “does the opposite”.
“Apart from the sex scenes that lots of parents would object to, if they knew about it, this book promotes a terribly blasé approach to being sexually assaulted.”
The passage in question see the minor being given a lift in an older man’s car, only to be forced into oral sex in a graphically described scene, and then dropped off closer to her destination.
The assaulted minor then surprisingly describes the incident as an “exchange of resources, a milestone reached in an unusual way” and claims that “nothing bad had really happened.”
The author makes no mention of sexual assault, or any need to report the crime, however.
“The Lauras” is among several books on the ‘Prescribed Material for Leaving Certificate English in 2021’, but the age-appropriateness of a number of texts has been questioned by parents and politicians worried that children are being unnecessarily exposed to sexualised content.
Concerns were raised last week in the Dáil by Willie O’Dea TD that school texts containing images of paedophilia, bestiality and torture had made their way into the English curriculum, having been chosen by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA).
“Many of the texts and films on the NCCA prescribed list for the English curriculum in secondary schools here contain explicit, graphic sexual content including sex between older adults and minors, bestiality and violence including torture,” O’Dea claimed.
“They focus on death in a macabre, gratuitous way.”
Minister for Education Norma Foley appeared to dismiss O’Dea’s concern that “young minds are easily impressionable” by stating that schools can “choose whichever text best suits the context of their teaching and their students.”
Foley said the task of choosing which texts are included by the NCCA was a “highly deliberative and time-intensive process”.