Campaigners against sex education are claiming small children will be taught masturbation in schools
A major misinformation campaign has been whipping up opposition to sex education reforms by telling parents that their four-year-old children will be taught how to masturbate.
JOE understands that the campaign, which started in Donegal, has led to hundreds of parents sending letters to the Department of Education.
In some cases, teachers have sent letters featuring the sensational and untrue claims home in children’s school bags.
In other cases, a rumour has spread among parents on WhatsApp that the government is trying to “push abortion and porn literacy” in schools, and compared it to sexually grooming children. A text message, seen by JOE, incorrectly claims that the Oireachtas Education Committee has “demanded” that children be taught “early childhood masturbation.”
The same claim has been spread by a new Donegal-based campaign group, called A Parent’s Right. The group has said that it is not responsible for the letters.
Rebecca McNamee, a spokeswoman for the group who is based in Letterkenny, has claimed that masturbation will be the “very first thing that will be taught to the children at the ages of 0-4.”
The Irish government has not yet made any decision about reforms to sex education. In 2018, the Department of Education asked the National Council for Curriculum Assessment (NCCA) to review the standard of sex education in Irish schools.
Between June 2018 and March this year, the NCCA reviewed the current standard of relationship and sex education and consulted with parents, teachers, students and researchers.
In July, the NCCA published a draft report which said that students felt Irish sex education was “too little, too late and too biological.”
It said teachers wanted more clarity on how to teach relationship and sex education (RSE), and that the majority of parents agree that age-appropriate relationship and sex education should be part of the school curriculum.
Between July and October, the NCCA carried out a second consultation on its review of sex education, before it gives its final report to Joe McHugh, the education minister, before the end of the year.
Parts of the Irish RSE curriculum have not been updated since 1997. Some schools still outsource their sex education to private anti-abortion, anti-LGBT groups which don’t teach about same sex relationships or contraception.
As part of its review of sex education, the NCCA commissioned a research paper.
The research paper cited a number of documents and reports, including a 2010 document from the World Health Organization on standards for sexuality education. The same document was also referenced in the NCCA draft report, which said the WHO report had been referenced by stakeholders.
One part of the WHO document, which offers advice on what kind of sex education different countries could adopt, does suggest providing information on “early childhood masturbation” to children between the ages of 0-4. This proposal has not been backed or endorsed by the NCCA or the Irish government.
JOE understands that the Irish government has privately been critical of the inclusion of “early childhood masturbation” in the WHO document, and that there is zero chance of the government supporting such a proposal.
Despite this, hundreds of letters - which suggest that the NCCA draft report is “adopting” the WHO document - have been printed and shared among parents. The letters, which were first printed in Donegal, call on parents to sign them and send them to the Department of Education.
The letters claim that Mr McHugh, the education minister, is supporting a recommendation where “young children would be exposed to and taught explicit sexual information.” It claims the WHO document is a “frightening attack on the innocence of childhood and on the family.”
The letters, which parents are encouraged to send to Mr McHugh, state:
“I have genuine concerns that the proposed RSE Changes are intended to sexualise children and generate conflict in accepting their own family values, culture and gender. Such changes will be the cause of much emotional upset in young children and will definitely undermine and deflect them from their Religious Faith Teachings.”
They also state:
“Will young boys and girls between 12-15 years come under peer pressure to become sexually active and use contraception? WILL THIS INCREASE THE RISK OF ACCUSATIONS OF STATUTORY RAPE?”
It is understood that over 200 of the letters have been sent to the Department of Education so far.
A source said that the letters have been shared with parents at four schools in Donegal. In one school, a teacher sent the letters home with children with a note encouraging parents to sign them.
Similar claims to those in the letters have also been made by A Parent’s Right.
The group is critical of plans to reform sex education. On its Facebook page, it has claimed:
“They will sexualise your child from a very young age by exposing them to adult sexual practices!”
The main spokeswoman for the group is Rebecca McNamee, who also goes by the name Rebecca McDaid.
In an interview with a right-wing blog, Ms McNamee claimed that “self-pleasure is the very first thing that will be taught to the children at the ages of 0-4.” She also claimed that the WHO document is “very, very much in the forefront of where we will be going with our sex education of the children.” Ms McNamee was giving an interview about "government plans for explicit sex education" but appeared to conflate the sex education review with a private members' bill from socialist TDs.
Ms McNamee was recently invited onto Virgin Media’s Ireland AM programme to debate sex education reforms with Ruth Coppinger, the Solidarity TD. Shortly after JOE contacted Ms McNamee on Wednesday, the A Parent’s Right Facebook page was deleted. In response to JOE, Ms McNamee said: "As a busy working parent, I cannot suspend my day to deal with every request of a frivolous nature I receive." She also asked for contact details for JOE's lawyer. Ms McNamee said that A Parents Right did not disseminate the letters which were sent to the Department of Education.
It’s understood that incorrect claims about sex education reforms have been spreading among parents in the west of the country.
JOE has seen a WhatsApp message which has been forwarded among parents which claims that the “proposed tyranny” of sex education reforms included the NCCA “insisting that parents want more Explicit Sex information” in schools. The message conflates the government review with a private members bill from Ms Coppinger, the solidarity TD.
“URGENT: TD’S Like Ruth Coppinger now want to Push ABORTION & PORN LITERACY in Schools!” the message said.
“One parent’s group have rightly described these recommendations as the 'Sexual Grooming' of children.”
It incorrectly claimed that the Oireachtas education committee had demanded the children were taught “early childhood masturbation.”
“This would be complete state control of our children and grandchildren and is pure filth,” the message said.