TDs have said that the Ministers for Education and Health must be held to account over the inclusion of a sexually explicit book on a children’s reading list, with Meath West TD Peadar Tóibín and Laois Offaly TD Carol Nolan saying that parents are seeking accountability.
Independent TD Carol Nolan said that her offices are “seeing a significant increase in the number of parents and educators contacting her about the inappropriate content of books on recommended reading lists for primary and post-primary school children”.
Deputy Nolan was speaking following the removal of the controversial ‘This Book is Gay’ by author Juno Dawson from the Junior Cycle SPHE (Social, Personal and Health Education) recommended reading list.
Aontú leader, Peadar Tóibín, said that the withdrawal of the book was a “victory” for both parents and children, but he questioned how a book detailing explicit sexual adult material made it onto a children’s reading list in the first place.
The book in question, ‘This Book is Gay’ by author Juno Dawson was included in a recommended reading list compiled by the Department of Education and the HSE for SPHE Junior Cycle curriculum (typically for 12-to15 year-olds). Directed at children as young as 12, it contained information on anal sex, oral sex, sexual positions, sexting, and using “sex apps” for casual sex, prompting furious backlash from parents.
Carol Nolan said that: “Someone somewhere made a conscious decision to include this book on a state approved and state supported recommended reading list for very young children. That decision was then signed off, and parents are now rightly asking who that was and how such decisions could have been made.”
“They want accountability because they simply cannot understand the mindset that thought this was age-appropriate educational material. They are not satisfied with the removal of the book from the Junior Cycle recommended reading list, although they do welcome that.”
“I have asked the Minister for Education to engage with the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment and the HSE in order to conduct a review of all SPHE recommended reading lists to ensure that the material being recommended to children is age-appropriate.”
Peadar Tóibín wants government Ministers to answer questions as to why the book was included on the HSE-developed ‘Relationships and Sexuality Education 1’ reading list for children in the first place.
“We must ask how a book detailing explicit adult sexual material made it onto a children’s reading list in the first place; How after it was brought to the Department’s attention, it was allowed to stay on that list for so long?” he said.
He continued: “It is incomprehensible that any adult in the charge of the welfare of children would make this book available to children. That the state would do it is incredible”.
Carol Nolan said that, as a former teacher, she was especially conscious of the primary role parents played in education.
“As a former educator myself I am aware of the benefit of guiding children on their journeys and of accompanying them as they begin to become aware of their personal development. But I am also deeply conscious that we must match this approach with a desire to do so in partnership with parents as the primary educators.”
“We must work together to protect the innocence of children and not to expose them to graphic sexual material before they have the capacity to absorb or contextualise that information in a healthy way.”
“These are basic and fundamental principles that many parents feel are not just being lost but are being derided and mocked. We have to push back against this approach and instead work in collaboration for the best interests of our children,” she said.
Peadar Tóibín said that he felt “the Government is waging a culture war against the will of parents.”
“The sexualization of young children is absolutely wrong. This is not an isolated incident. The government seems to be involved in a culture war in education against the will of parents at the moment,” he said.
“The government needs to stop and listen to parents. Parents are by far the best judge of what’s appropriate for their children. The Tánaiste recently condemned Home Schooling at a time when government policy is driving more and more parents into Homeschooling”
“There must be accountability; Who made these decisions? Why and what will be the consequences? Parents need to restore parental confidence in the education system,” the TD said.
The inclusion of the book as recommended reading in libraries for 12-17 years olds also prompted protests from parents, who said they were upset and angry that children would be exposed to “very explicit” and “pornographic” material at a young age in a school or library setting.
"Keep gender ideology out of schools": Parents gather in Fingal to protest against radical sex ed material in schools. pic.twitter.com/g4DbwTHXmp
— gript (@griptmedia) April 6, 2023