A parents group in Donegal have raised concern over a potential sex education bill that could lead to school children aged four and under being taught about masturbation.
The claim comes following the Provision of Objective Sex Education Bill, published in April 2018, sponsored by Solidarity-People Before Profit TDs Ruth Coppinger, Paul Murphy and Mick Barry.
The bill is currently making its way through the Oireachtas.
The proposal aims to amend the Education Act 1998 to ensure that the rights of students to receive factual and objective information on relationships and sexuality regardless of the school’s ethos.
It contains provisions for education on consent, the termination of pregnancy, different types of sexuality and gender and different contraception methods.
A Parents Right, a Donegal group, oppose the proposals and a spokesperson for the group said the lack of information parents have received from schools and the government on the potential bill has been ‘alarming’.
Rebecca McNamee, a member of the Parents Right group, said: “At the minute, we are allowed to object to the Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) programme but there is still a problem because some of the schools (in Donegal) are telling us that we have to physically remove our kids from the class in order for them not to be taught the curriculum in school.
“But for some parents that is simply not feasible, so it means that it is therefore compulsory for those children.
“We know some of the teachers are not comfortable teaching the children the curriculum and therefore an outsider has to be brought in, in order to give out this information.
“So we now have a situation where teachers, who know these children and sees them every day, don’t want to give out that information.
“We don’t see why an outsider, who doesn’t know these children or their backgrounds, should be able to give out this type of information and have it as a one size fits all – it is not acceptable.”
And McNamee said while certain school across the county are more than willing to help parents with further information more can be done with the majority who are leaving parents ‘with a massive question mark’.
McNamee continued: “Every parent needs to be given the information before they can make a decision on whether they want their child to have that information or not.
“And some schools do give us information about the RSE programme and some don’t and that leaves parents with a massive question mark, especially now that it is the summer time.
“You can’t make that decision without the information and so what we are trying to do is bring the parents together in a forum, like the one in Letterkenny tonight, so that they can liaise with the schools and government ministers.
“We are prepared to put ourselves forward for them, there is no profit in this for us, we are only doing this because we were concerned parents about our own children coming home saying certain things.
“I wasn’t prepared for my girl coming home and saying certain things and I just thought that parents should be getting told about what our children are being taught in schools.”
The concern comes ahead of a public meeting in Letterkenny on Friday night (July 5) in McGettigan’s Hotel were parents and being urged to attend to express their concern and gather more information.
“What certain school do is that they give you a website that you can visit and there is information that can be printed off so that you can be prepared for these questions from your children, but that takes time and not every parent out there has the time to do this.
“Most of the school are not being very family oriented and it isn’t fair on the parents and the idea that this could be mandatory is not right.”
The committee made a series of recommendations, including that a relationship and sexual education curriculum should be taught at “primary level in an age and developmentally appropriate manner.”
But the Parents Right group said that sex education simply ‘wasn’t anywhere near’ a young child’s thinking and the idea that masturbation should be taught to primary level children was ‘utterly ridiculous’
“First of all, children are not capable of getting any benefit from such a curriculum and we want people to know that we are not against an RSE programme but it has to be age-appropriate.
“We understand that certain things have to be taught to our children but the current proposals are not age-appropriate and as far as we are concern some of the things currently being taught are not age-appropriate either.
“We want to do now is put together a programme that is age-appropriate for the children and we want to be able to liaise with other parents before talking to the correct authorities on this in order to put the education together and that’s why we are encouraging people to come along to the public meeting.”