How we can use human rights law to tackle religious discrimination in Irish schools

Jane Donnelly of Atheist Ireland talking in Limerick City Library about using human rights principles and the Schools Equality PACT to tackle religious discrimination in Irish schools. The talk was organised by the Mid West Humanists on 20 November 2015.

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission has made Recommendations on the Education (Admission to Schools) Bill 2015. These Recommendations also cover opting out of religion in schools and ensuring that the curriculum is delivered in an objective, critical and pluralistic manner.

IHREC submits recommendations on Admission to Schools Bill 2015

In respect of admissions policies and promoting inclusivity in schools:

The Commission proposes two amendments to the new Section 62 (6) of the Education Act, which deals with the characteristic spirit and general objectives of the school.

The first amendment would 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. (See Pars 27-31 Observations)

A second amendment to the new Section 62 (6) on admissions policy would require schools to have regard to the values of an inclusive school that at a minimum respects and accommodates diversity across all nine grounds contained in the equality legislation.

Additionally, the Commission recommends establishing minimum standards in relation to the nature of exemptions for students who do not want to attend religious instruction in accordance with parental choice.”

In respect of education admissions and the religious exemption clause:

The Commission recommends that the Equal Status Acts be amended to give effect to the principle that no child should be given preferential access to a publicly funded school on the basis of their religion. The proposed amendment could include an individualised derogation granted by the Minister for Education and Skills in the case of a specific school where refusal to admit a student is proved to be essential to maintain the ethos of the school. (Pars 15-24 Observations)”l choice.

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