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'I did it because I believe in God'

BY NADINE WILSON Sunday Observer reporter wilsonn@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, December 09, 2012    

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A Jamaican-born teacher, who was dismissed from a UK school after complaining that the school's compulsory training day was used to promote homosexuality, is among several speakers participating in a Human Rights Day presentation at Emancipation Park in Kingston tomorrow.

Kwabena Peat, who was a senior teacher, was dismissed on three separate occasions from the high school he taught at in Tottenham, North London, after school administrators argued he had contravened the equalities legislation.

This is a British law which protects specific groups from harrassment, discrimination and unfair treatment in the workplace and society in general on the basis of sexuality, gender, age, pregnancy, race, disability, or religion among other criteria.

In an interview with the Jamaica Observer, Peat said he was first suspended and subsequently dismissed following the school's training session for teachers in January of 2009. The training session, it had been announced, was geared towards teaching the educators how to deal with bullying in school. However, he said the keynote speaker spent most of the session speaking about her life as a lesbian.

Peat, who had been teaching for over 25 years, said several of the teachers became agitated by the open discussion about the 'natural-ness' of homosexuality, especially when the question was asked, "what makes you all think that to be heterosexual is normal?"

"At this point I got up and I said, I refuse anymore to be humiliated in this way by this woman. I do not want this person to be telling me about myself, things that I know not to be true, and I refuse to receive her message any more," he told the Sunday Observer on Friday.

Peat said he then wrote a letter of complaint about the training session and sent it to three of the organisers. However, a week later, to his dismay, he was informed by the principal that the individuals had taken offence to his letter and he was being suspended.

"Because I had used scripture in order to tell them about homosexuality, and I had pointed out that God was displeased with this kind of behaviour, that contravened their understanding of the equalities legislation, so they advised that it needed further investigation, and, consequently, I was suspended from my work," he said.

Five long months later, while still on suspension, Peat was dismissed for "denying colleagues their equal opportunity and attacking their sexual orientation".

However, he was reinstated shortly after, following an appeal and a follow-up investigation by a selection of governors at the school.

But this was to be the start of a difficult, combative journey with school administrators over alternative sexual lifestyles, Peat said.

He was dismissed a second time after reading scripture at the beginning of an assembly at the start of Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual and Transgender Week at the school.

"I was dismissed because they believed that the scripture that I read was deliberately being used to target a homosexual teacher," he said.

Following investigations, Peat was again reinstated, but eventually was dismissed a third time by the school. He has not returned to the classroom since.

Peat's story has been highly publicised in the UK media and has sparked widespread discussion on issues of sexual morality and human rights. The educator said he is looking forward to sharing his experience during tomorrow's discussion, which is being organised by the Jamaica Coalition for a Healthy Society (JCHS).

"My main focus is going to be on the impact of the social legislation on the lives of people in the society, particularly the rights of believers, and how their civil rights are actually being discriminated against and trampled on," he said.

"They said that I attacked these colleagues because I was heterosexual. They also said that I did it because I believe in God, and the reason why they said it, is because I used scripture," he explained.

The United Nations Human Rights Day is celebrated on December 10 each year. The spotlight this year will be on women, youth, minorities, persons with disabilities, indigenous people, the poor and marginalised. Last year saw civil rights advocates turning the spotlight on homophobic bullying.

This theme also became the focus of International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO) which was observed in May of this year. During a forum to mark the day, representative of the United Nations Children's Fund in Jamaica, Rob Fuderich, said bullying violates a child's right to education, and called for sexual bullying to be a reportable offence under the law. Chairperson of Jamaica Civil Society Coalition, Carol Narcisse, said the training of teachers was necessary to end homophobic bullying in schools.

The JCHS is a Christian non-profit organisation, which was formed earlier this year and acts as a societal watchdog for Christian principles on marriage, sex and the family through a variety of activities and projects.

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