New Equal Participation in Schools Bill from Socialist Party/AAA

The Socialist Party/AAA has submitted a new Equal Participation in Schools Bill, which incorporates proposals from Atheist Ireland and the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission on bringing about schools equality.

The new Bill will propose fundamental changes to three of the four areas of Atheist Ireland’s Schools Equality PACT – Patronage, Access and Curriculum.

The Party previously proposed a Bill to tackle teaching – the fourth area of the Schools Equality PACT – but Fine Gael and Labour effectively defeated that this week with their own Government Bill that maintains religious discrimination against atheist teachers.

As the Equal Participation in Schools Bill is an opposition proposal, it will have to go into a lottery in order to be taken, but whether or not it is taken, it demonstrates the holistic approach to schools equality that is needed in Ireland.

Changes that will be proposed in the new Equal Participation in Schools Bill include:

PATRONAGE

Amend Section 2 of the Education Act to delete “ “characteristic spirit” means the characteristic spirit referred to in section 15(2)(b);”.

Amend Section 9(d) of the Education Act to

(a) delete “spiritual”, and

(b) substitute “characteristic spirit of the school” with “constitutional and human rights of all persons concerned”.

Amend Section 15 of the Education Act to

(a) in subsection (2)(b) delete “uphold, and be accountable to the patron for so upholding, the characteristic spirit of the school as determined by the cultural, educational, moral, religious, social, linguistic and spiritual values and traditions which inform and are characteristic of the objectives and conduct of the school, and”, and

(b) in subsection (2)(d) delete “the characteristic spirit of the school and”.

ACCESS

Delete Section 7(3)(c) of the Equal Status Act. That is the Section that allows religious schools to discriminate in admissions on the ground of religion.

CURRICULUM

Amend Section 30 of the Education Act by

(a) deleting subsection (2)(b)

(b) deleting subsection (2)(d)

(c) in subsection (2)(e) inserting the following: “and shall establish minimum standards in relation to the nature of exemptions for students who do not want to attend such classes in accordance with parental choice, or their own choice in cases of students aged 18 years of age or over, having regard to the constitutional and human rights of all persons concerned,”

(d) inserting a new subsection (2)(f) as follows “(f) shall require all schools to provide knowledge and information in the State-prescribed curriculum in an objective, critical and pluralistic manner that avoids indoctrination, outside of the specific context of religious instruction and faith formation classes where exemptions apply.”

TEACHING

The Party previously proposed a Bill to tackle Teaching – the fourth area of the Schools Equality PACT – but Fine Gael and Labour effectively defeated that this week with their own Government Bill that maintains religious discrimination against atheist teachers.

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