BY LUKE DOUGLAS Career & Education senior reporter email@example.com
THE Paediatric Association of Jamaica is considering having a forum at which issues of adolescent sexuality can be professionally discussed, following reports of sexual attacks by senior students on their juniors at a prominent all-girls high school.
Association president Dr Lisa Franklin said the issue of adolescents being attracted to persons of the same or the opposite sex is very topical, but needs to be discussed in an environment without fear by stakeholders in the education system.
"For some reason, some adults think this is something that is taboo to discuss, but as pediatricians these are issues that we deal with on a daily basis. In our practice, we are trained to have these discussions with our patients; it may be brought to us by our patients who want to talk about the matter confidentially as part of a routine examination," Franklin told Career & Education.
President of the Jamaica Teachers' Association (JTA) Paul Adams has himself welcomed increased discussion by education stakeholders on the matter of bullying in schools. He, however, noted that bullying was not confined to children being forced into same-sex relationships by their older schoolmates.
"Bullying in schools has to be dealt with in PTA meetings, in the media, in church forums and everywhere, because we are growing up children. They see the matter of bullying in public, where the mother tells the big child to beat the little one. They see the big one push the little one off the bed. We have commercial bullying where big children send the little ones to buy lunch and come back with change," he said.
Still, the JTA head said it was critical that reports of same-sex bullying be thoroughly investigated to determine the nature and extent problem.
"We have been trying to get better insight as to exactly what is happening and the extent to which it is happening, and then [to determine] what we can do to address the problem," Adams said.
President of the Jamaica Association of Principals of Secondary Schools Sharon Reid has said the matter would be addressed by the association at a workshop next month.
In June last year, the Sunday Observer reported that students in at least four Corporate Area high schools complained of being targeted by aggressive lesbian students at their schools for sexual favours. That report spoke of younger students being held down and fondled in school bathrooms by older students.
The Paediatric Association, in a letter to the media last month, expressed concern that the issue of lesbian sex in schools was being sensationalised.
"During middle adolescence [approximately 14 to 16 years of age] in particular, many adolescents, as they try to understand themselves, may become involved in experimental behaviours with either the opposite or the same sex. During this time, adolescents can benefit tremendously from the presence of understanding adults who can appropriately guide them as they make choices, and help them to learn from their decisions," the letter stated.
But Franklin has since made it clear that the association was in no way condoning the behaviour of the students forcing younger girls into lesbian sexual activities.
"By no means are we condoning that or saying that is normal behaviour," she said.
Franklin added that the idea of a forum involving teachers, parents, guidance counsellors and other interested parties would have to be discussed by her association.
Meanwhile, Adams has urged school leaders to seek the assistance of colleagues in addressing same-sex bullying and other challenges.
"I am asking school administrators that whenever they have insight into anything like this that they seek internal and external support to ensure that people's children are protected," he said.