Protesters against school LGBT lessons vow to continue action
The head teacher of Anderton Park Primary School has labelled the demonstrations ‘toxic and nasty’.
Protesters have vowed to continue demonstrations against LGBT teaching at a primary school despite widespread criticism.
The head of Anderton Park Primary School labelled the protests, which have continued for weeks, as “toxic and nasty”, adding they are bringing “hatred and division” to the usually quiet Birmingham cul-de-sac.
Lessons ended early on Friday for the half-term break after a decision by school leaders concerned about safety amid the protests.
School head Sarah Hewitt-Clarkson said she will not change what is taught at the school, in Moseley, because of the demonstrations.
It’s horrific, it’s the fabric of British society that is at stake here Sarah Hewitt-Clarkson, head teacher
Speaking to BBC Radio Five Live, Miss Hewitt-Clarkson said equality education is “crucial”, and making changes would be “the thin end of a very sinister wedge”.
She added: “Our country will fall apart if that happens.”
In a series of tweets on Friday night, West Midlands Police said in response to questions from the public that investigations into “a number of criminal offences” at the protests were ongoing.
“We will act where people seek to exploit these matters and break the law,” the force said.
Quite a few people asking us about the protest at Anderton Park Primary School today. As with the other protests in recent months, we've done everything necessary to maintain the public peace. We're currently investigating a number of criminal offences and enquiries continue...— West Midlands Police (@WMPolice) May 24, 2019
Miss Hewitt-Clarkson added that the school is now seeking an injunction against the demonstrations.
“There is a real despair that has made this us-and-them feeling,” she said. “It’s only a small minority of parents and actually a majority are totally fed up of this.
“It’s not peaceful, it is aggressive, it’s rude.
“Their tactics are very bullying and intimidating, they’re meant to crush the spirit of people like me, and other women.”
She added there had been “sexism, misogyny, racism, on top of all the homophonic stuff and everything else we’ve had”.
She added it had been “really toxic, nasty, uncivil behaviour”.
The chief constable of West Midlands Police and Education Secretary Daman Hinds have this week both called for protests outside the school to stop.
Mr Hinds said on Thursday that the demonstrations are “unacceptable”, adding: “There is no place for protests outside school gates.”
Miss Hewitt-Clarkson was also critical of recent remarks by Labour constituency MP Roger Godsiff, in which he said he understands some parents’ concerns about how “age-appropriate” elements of the LGBT teaching had been, for children aged four and five.
She said: “He commented four or five years old might be too young.
“Well, that’s discriminatory.
“It’s horrific, it’s the fabric of British society that is at stake here.
“Because the equality laws hold us together.
“The law is there as a mark in the sand and that’s what we all have to promote, and understand and aspire to.
“And as public servants, as Roger Godsiff is a public servant, he has to as well.”
She praised Labour MP Jess Phillips for telling protesters earlier this week, outside the school, they could not “pick and choose” which equality they apply.
Miss Hewitt-Clarkson said: “It’s an absolute nonsense and the Labour Party need to sort it out.
“Thank god for Jess Phillips.”
Despite the criticism, the main organiser Shakeel Afsar used a sound system set up in the street to vow protests would be continuing after the half-term break, to cheers from a dozen protesters.
Another demonstrator, local businessman Zafar Majid, said: “The issue we have is the education being given, the indoctrination of the young children is that they are expected to affirm, to celebrate, to embrace LGBT ideology, which is against the moral ethics of the many Abrahamic religions and faiths.
“We can co-exist, live peacefully together, but what we cannot do is force each other’s ideology on one another.”
But debating with protesters was Edan Powell, a 16-year-old student from Staffordshire carrying a rainbow flag.
He had come with a friend to confront protesters because he felt “only one side of the argument” is being put to parents.
Debating with Mr Majid, he said: “I think it is not only morally right but it is an obligation we have to teach our kids about other things rather than maths, English and science.
“We need to be able to teach our kids about the real world, and the real world does include seeing people that aren’t the same as you.”
Mr Majid said: “I totally agree, we shouldn’t bury our heads under the sand and not expose them to what the real world is.
“But there’s a fine line that gets breached between teaching children and proselytising them against a certain ideology.”
Afterwards, Mr Powell said: “There was dialogue at least, and I think that’s important.”
Commenting on what the children are being taught, he added: “I don’t think it’s inappropriate because children are going to see it in the street, so why is it inappropriate to show it in a book that talks about two moms and two dads?”
Asked how the protests have impacted on the city’s wider gay community – who will be marking Birmingham Pride on Saturday – he said: “Since these protests started, they feel more unsafe about being in Birmingham.”
As parents collected their children from the school on Friday, all expressed frustration at the continuing disruption from the demonstrations.
Several expressed support for the school, though one parent – who was unsupportive – said he would take his child out of the school without a compromise.