According to Thursday's Daily Mail teachers are to be told that even if a primary school child uses homophobic or racist words without knowing their meaning, simply teaching them such words are hurtful and inappropriate is not enough; incidents must be put down on record.
In fact, as the paper points out, teachers have been required to record incidents of racism for some years now, but more recently similar procedures have been recommended in the case of homophobia and prejudice against disabled people.
The paper cites an example of a boy called Peter from south west England who, it says, called a friend 'gay boy' outside school and was overheard by another mother who reported the incident to the school head. According to the Mail, Peter's mother is furious that her son had been put on what it calls a 'hate register' or 'hate list'
Peter's mother, who seemed content to have her boy identified by name and photo in a national newspaper and on the internet, told the Daily Mail that her son "doesn't even understand about the birds and the bees, so how can he be homophobic?"
The Daily Mail on 4 March 2010 commented:But the Mail's professed opposition to homophobia is belied by its shameful reputation: around this time last year the Daily Mail was running a vicious and prolonged campaign against gay adoption. More recently, in the same mould, there was the notorious Jan Moir piece about Stephen Gately.
Now compare the mother's 'mindset' with that of CBBC.
The prevailing ethos in the BBC is that references to lesbigay issues and people are intrinsically about sex, and therefore not suitable for a pre-teen audience. However, the BBC takes the view that Newsround gossip reports about 'who's going out with whom,' and fiction programmes involving hetero affection/love, for example, Lockie Leonard and Eliot Kid, are suitable for pre-teens.
Think about it carefully - Peter's mother is saying, in effect, that if he uses an epithet like 'gay boy' that's not an issue, because a 10 year old 'doesn't even understand about the birds and the bees.' But her attitude has the same consequence as the BBC's discrimination: at the end of the day both stances condone homophobic bullying and prejudice.
In the past CBBC wasn't so reticent about tackling the distress caused by homophobia, and I'll be talking a bit more about this in a future blog.