LGBT primary teaching protests permanently banned

Judge rules protests outside Birmingham school had 'a very significant adverse impact' on pupils, teachers and residents
26th November 2019, 11:24am


LGBT primary teaching protests permanently banned
A Court Has Permanently Banned Protests Against Teaching Children About Lgbt Relationships Outside A Birmingham School

Anti-LGBT equality teaching protests have been permanently banned outside a primary school that witnessed weeks of noisy demonstrations.

The ban, handed down by a judge at the High Court in Birmingham on Tuesday, includes an exclusion zone surrounding the city's Anderton Park Primary School.

The legal bid had been opposed by protesters, along with an interim ban first granted at the same court in the summer.

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Birmingham City Council was granted an order temporarily banning protesters from outside the school's gates in June, over safety fears about repeated large-scale demonstrations, often involving people with no direct connection to the school.

The injunction was made against three individuals - the protest's main organisers Shakeel Afsar and Amir Ahmed, and parent Rosina Afsar, as well as "persons unknown".

LGBT teaching protests

Christian campaigner John Allman, from Okehampton, Devon, had also opposed the legal bid, claiming it limited public protest.

Headteacher Sarah Hewitt-Clarkson had previously described the demonstrations as "awful", "toxic and nasty", and had spoken of receiving threats as a result of the gatherings.

Mr Afsar repeatedly claimed the weekly demonstrations, held just yards from classrooms and featuring megaphones and a sound-boosting PA system, were "peaceful".

The self-styled businessman, who has no children himself at the school, claimed protests were only triggered because the headteacher had not properly consulted parents about relationships teaching.

He had argued education material used was not age-appropriate, and further claimed the school was "over-emphasising a gay ethos".

Ms Hewitt-Clarkson rejected the claims, saying the material was appropriate and great care had been taken over how children were taught about different relationships.

She also told the judge, giving evidence at the injunction hearing, that parents had had "numerous informal and formal chances to speak to us as a school" about any concerns.

But describing a private meeting she had with Mr Afsar in her office, she said: "He slammed his hand on my desk. He used the word 'demand'... It was volatile, it was aggressive.

"I had never had a meeting like that before in 26 years of teaching. He set up a WhatsApp group that afternoon ... trying to whip up a frenzy."

Reacting to the verdict today, she said: "We will carry on doing what we do.  We will work with parents, families, the local authority and any new legislation that comes from the DfE, and we are particularly thrilled that the school has not been criticised at all in anything the judge has said."

She added: "We knew it was misrepresented and that is the frustration when you're trying to go about your daily business as educators.

"When people say things about you that are not true, that is very difficult. It has taken us to come to the High Court to clear that up."

Mr Justice Warby QC, handing down the permanent injunction at the High Court in Birmingham, said the protests had "a very significant adverse impact on the pupils, teachers and local residents".

Recounting claims made by speakers at the protests, including one that the school had a "paedophile agenda" and that staff were "teaching children how to masturbate", the judge said: "None of this is true."

He added: "None of the defendants have suggested it was true and the council has proved it is not true."

Imposing the injunction, he said: "The court finds on the balance of probabilities the defendants bear responsibility for the most extreme manifestations (of the protest)."

The injunction does not include an earlier ban on use of social media to abuse teaching staff.

The Department for Education has welcomed the ruling today. A  spokesperson said: "We've long said we want to end these protests and encourage positive dialogue, so we welcome the High Court's decision today.

"We continue to work with the school and parents to encourage positive and constructive engagement."

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the NAHT heads' union, which represents leaders in the majority of schools in Birmingham, said: "This judgement makes it abundantly clear that the school gate is no place to hold a protest.

"These protests have been widely and rightly condemned and they should now be brought to an end with immediate effect. An end to the protests will help everyone involved to restore a peaceful and productive teaching and learning environment as swiftly as possible.

"Dedicated public servants faithfully discharging their duty have an absolute right to feel confident and safe. Pupils should never have to walk past noisy and aggressive protests on their way to school.

"We will continue to support schools where disagreements persist because diversity and equality are a matter of fact and a matter of law, and learning about equality and diversity is not optional."

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