Education

School suspends teacher from sex-ed classes after claiming ‘gay men have worms’

Maggie Baska July 19, 2022
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Images of a presentation by a Hwa Chong Institution school presentation about "community health" containing false and unsubstantiated claims about LGBTQ+ people

A school counsellor at a Hwa Chong Institution school in Singapore made a presentation containing bigoted claims about the LGBTQ+ community. (Reddit/DAvengingAngels)

A Singaporean school counsellor was suspended from giving lessons after alleging gay people have “intestinal worms” and other discriminatory claims during a presentation.

The presentation by a Hwa Chong Institution (HCI) staffer drew backlash after slides that contained bigoted and unsubstantiated remarks against the LGBTQ+ community was uploaded online. The worker – who has not been named, but is understood to be a male school counsellor – delivered the speech to the school’s secondary 4 cohorts on 13 July, The Straits Times reported. 

One post on the Singapore sub-Reddit showed slides from the presentation, titled “Community Health”, with claims about how “58 per cent of homosexuals have problems with intestinal worms”. It also alleged a proportion of gay people have sexually transmitted diseases, sexually abuse children and are perpetrators of domestic violence. 

An HCI spokesman said the school was taking the incident seriously and declared the presentation content was not approved by the institution. 

The spokesman also explained that the views expressed were the “individual staff’s personal perspectives” and not representative of the school’s position or the Ministry of Education (MOE). 

“We are aware of the incident, which took place during a presentation on sexuality, where a staff member incorporated content outside the scope of the [MOE’s] sexuality education curriculum into his slides,” the spokesperson said. 

HCI principal Pang Choon How also addressed the incident with students and reiterated that the school counsellor’s anti-LGBTQ+ views were not shared by the school, according to a recording obtained by the Straits Times

One student told the outlet the presentation’s content was inappropriate, but believed HCI’s community is generally inclusive of LGBTQ+ people. 

According to the Singaporean MOE’s website, sexuality education curriculum is supposed to be “holistic and secular”, emphasising the “importance of respect for self and others”. The government office added that such instruction should help young people “develop positive self-identity and healthy relationships”. 

LGBTQ+ advocacy group Pink Dot SG denounced the counsellor for making a “presentation with fabricated statistics and misinformation” about gay people that were “harmful and aimed at instilling fear and shame”.

Pink Dot SG added students deserve “access to science-based sexuality education that’s free from personal beliefs and biases”. The group said it was also wrong to simply dismiss the incident as the work of one “rogue” school staffer.

“To chalk this up to the actions of one rogue counsellor ignores systemic issues of inadequate sexuality education and the fact that schools in Singapore have repeatedly evaded accountability on matters of sexuality,” Pink Dot SG added.

 

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The group was concerned that the counsellor was “brazen enough to deliver such a speech before hundreds of students” so it was worrying to consider what “might have been said to LGBTQ+ students behind closed doors in private counselling sessions”.

Heckin’ Unicorn, a Singapore-based queer brand, condemned HCI on Instagram for not taking “meaningful action” and said the decision to keep the counsellor in his role is “deeply disturbing”. 

“His recent acts have shown that he is likely a dangerous person for any LGBTQ+ student to be receiving counselling from,” the a spokesperson for the brand wrote. “The school’s insistence on protecting him is disturbing and disappointing.”

The brand’s statement alleged the counsellor also showed a “conversion therapy” video in addition to presenting “unscientific and hateful messages to students”. 

LGBTQ+ people in Singapore face harsh discrimination and stigmatisation just for living as their authentic selves. 

The country has repeatedly refused to overturn an antiquated colonial-era law, known as section 377A, banning homosexuality. Campaigners described the hateful law as a “huge signpost to society that gay men are still criminals” even if they “may not be prosecuted”. 

Last year, dozens of LGBTQ+ groups in Singapore rallied behind a trans student who said she was banned from school unless she cut her hair and wore a boys’ uniform.

The student, Ashlee, 18, who attended the Millenia Institute school, said she was told her “presentation” would have been “disruptive to the school environment” and was eventually pulled out of classes unless she cut her hair and wore the boys’ uniform.

Ashlee also said [since the incident] she became a “target” of the MOE as it allegedly sought to block her gender-affirming treatment, which the government body denied.

The bitter conflict gained global attention after Ashlee posted her story on social media, prompting a group of Singaporean LGBT+ organisations to issue a statement of solidarity.

The coalition of LGBTQ+ groups said they were “deeply concerned about the lack of institutional regulations or policies that acknowledge and protect the rights of transgender students in Singapore”.

They called on the government to live up to its commitment to “keeping students safe” by creating and fostering safer environments for all students, including LGBTQ+ young people. 

 

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