Protests resume at Birmingham school over LGBTI inclusivity lessons

Anti LGBTI education protestors outside Parkfield School (Photo: Twitter)

Protests have resumed at a primary school in Birmingham amid claims LGBTI inclusivity issues were still being discussed with pupils.

Parkfield Community School has seen various demonstrations over past months regarding the ‘No Outsiders’ program which teaches lessons on LGBTI inclusivity.

Protests ended last week after school officials said the program would be put on hold indefinitely.

However, over 250 people began demonstrating outside the school gates on Thursday (22 March), the BBC reports.

The protests have outraged equal rights advocates.

Human Rights Watch called on the school to continue the LGBTI-inclusivity lessons, saying that religious beliefs ‘cannot be used to override the rights of LGBT children’.

‘These policies contribute to bullying and, violence, and can leave already vulnerable children feeling like their existence is a mistake,’ the group said.

Assistant Headteacher Andrew Moffat, who introduced the program, has said that ‘No Outsiders’ had not been axed for good.

‘Our children, our choice’

Last week, the school said it was stopping ‘No Outsiders’ until an agreement was reached with local parents.

However, protestors say that discussions on LGBTI issues and same-sex relationships are still ongoing in the school.

Organizers of the Parkfield Parents’ Community Group have called on headteacher Hazel Pulley to resign, alleging that she ‘cannot keep her word’.

A number of local parents from the majority-Muslim community object to the lessons on religious grounds.

Protestors have also labeled the lessons as ‘toxic’, and not age-appropriate for primary school children.

‘We still stand where we were before,’ said Fatima Shah, a protestor whose child attends Parkfield school.

‘We want No Outsiders to stop. Our children, our choice,’ she added.

Following the earlier protests, four more UK schools stopped teaching the No Outsiders program.

Moffat also said that the program ‘hasn’t been axed at all’, but put on hold while ‘[re-engaging] with our parents’.

‘These policies contribute to bullying and violence’

LGBTI rights advocates, including LGBTI Muslim groups, have condemned the protests.

This week Human Rights Watch released a statement saying that UK schools should: ‘stand firm against these protests and support a curriculum inclusive of all children.’

The group said that religious beliefs cannot override the rights of LGBTI students, and discussed cases where LGBTI education has been stifled such as in Russia and Japan.

‘Human Rights Watch has seen the effects in other countries of banning positive discussions about homosexuality and other “non-traditional” relationships.

‘These policies contribute to bullying and violence, and can leave already vulnerable children feeling like their existence is a mistake.’

The ‘No Outsiders’ program has also received the support from government education officials, and from the head of the UK’s school watchdog, Ofsted.

Praised for introducing LGBTI-inclusivity lessons in UK schools

Parkfield Community School has been in the headlines since January due to the backlash over ‘No Outsiders’ lessons.

Moffat says he has received threats over the lessons, though claims the protestors are a small but vocal minority.

The teacher has received widespread praise and several awards for his contributions to education in the UK.

In 2016, Ofsted inspectors ranked the school as ‘outstanding’, praising Moffat and his work in building LGBTI-inclusivity.

Author: Calum Stuart

The post Protests resume at Birmingham school over LGBTI inclusivity lessons appeared first on Gay Star News.

LGBTI Muslims condemn homophobic school protests in Birmingham

lgbti muslims at a pride parade

LGBTI Muslims have hit back at protesters who said you can’t be ‘gay and Muslim’ at a protest in Birmingham.

Hundreds of people protested outside the Parkfield Community school in the UK’s second biggest city on Thursday (7 March). They were protesting a proposed LGBTI-inclusive anti-bullying education program called No Outsiders at the school.

Parents held their children back from school in protest of program, with 600 students of the school staging a mass walkout last week. The majority of the students at Parkfield are Muslim, with parents arguing the program violated their religious beliefs. Following the walkout school management temporarily suspended the program.

But protesters took to the streets outside Parkfield to call for a permanent ban on the program. A man standing on the back of a truck shouted ‘shame, shame, shame’ into a microphone.

‘You can’t be gay and Muslim,’ he said.

Worry about anti-gay sentiment

Imaan is a volunteer-led charity dedicated to supporting LGBTI Muslims. Its spokesperson, Faizan, told Gay Star News the homophobic rhetoric had Imaan very worried.

‘We’re saddened and shocked that we’ve been going for 20 years and we’re facing a resurgence of the sentiment being expressed at the meeting,’ they said.

‘And we’re quite worried about that.’

Faizan said the debate around whether the Islamic holy book, the Quran, explicitly outlaws homosexuality has been misinterpreted. They also said LGBTI identities have existed in Islamic history for centuries.

‘We reject the idea that you can’t be LGBTI and Muslim,’ they said.

‘We believe that your sexuality and gender identity are aspects of yourself.

‘Your faith is God given. Gender and sexuality are God given and not something you can choose.’

Not just Muslims

British journalist Sunny Hundal has been reporting from the Birmingham protests. He said ‘people need to pay more attention because this controversy is likely to get bigger’.

Hundal warned it would get bigger because anti-LGBTI Christian and Jewish groups have waded into the debate.

‘If we don’t stand up for children being taught that there’s nothing wrong with being LGBT and such bullying is wrong, it will be a huge setback,’ he wrote on Twitter.

‘This controversy is no longer about Muslims because conservative Jews, Christians and Sikhs are also rallying to their side.’

A speaker from homophobic, conservative Christian group, Christian Voice also spoke at the protest.

Helping LGBTI Muslims

Imaan has worked for 23 years to support LGBTI Muslims in the UK. Faizan said it was now more important than ever they continue their work.

They wanted to let LGBTI Muslims know that they can reach out to Imaan for support.

‘I want to send a message that our primary concern is the welfare of LGBT Muslims out there who might be affected,’ Faizan said.

‘We (Imaan) exist. Come to our meetings, volunteer, donate to us we are completely run by volunteers.

‘There is a huge community out there, reach out and we’ll support as we have done for the past 23 years.’

If you would like to support LGBTQI Muslims with Imaan please consider a donation: Account name: Imaan Account number: 60534196 Sort Code: 20-71-74 Bank name: Barclays

Author: Shannon Power

The post LGBTI Muslims condemn homophobic school protests in Birmingham appeared first on Gay Star News.

Dismay as British primary school suspends anti-homophobia classes

The school says it will be consulting with parents before resuming its 'No Outsiders' program

A primary school in Birmingham, England, has suspended a series of classes from its curriculum that encouraged children to embrace diversity and respect how people differ. The LGBTI-inclusive lessons at Parkfield Community School were part of its ‘No Outsiders’ program.

The aim of the lessons was to help reduce bullying. The topics discussed include gender, gender identity, religion, sexual orientation, disability and age.

However, when parents of the school kids – who are majority Muslim – learned about the program, many complained.

Parents have staged protests outside the school. The friction between school and parents escalated last Friday when 600 of the pupils took part in a school walk-out. That represents around 80% of the student population.

The walk-out took place despite the school announcing that no more ‘No Outsiders’ classes would take place for the rest of this term. It says it is now planning to undertake a consultation with local parents over the program’s content.

A school banner promoting the 'No Outsiders' program originated at Parkfield Community School

A school banner promoting the ‘No Outsiders’ program (Photo: Andrew Moffat | Facebook)

Trailblazing teacher

The lessons were devised by the school’s assistant head, Andrew Moffat, who is gay. Moffat received an MBE from the Queen in 2017 for services to equality and diversity in education. Last year he was one of three British teachers shortlisted for the ‘World’s Best Teacher’ award.

In a statement to parents, the school said, ‘Up to the end of this term, we will not be delivering any No Outsiders lessons in our long term year curriculum plan, as this half term has already been blocked for religious education (RE).

‘Equality assemblies will continue as normal and our welcoming No Outsiders ethos will be there for all.’

Parkfield reasserts support for program

Many media outlets suggested the lessons have been dropped outright, but reacting to a headline on the Guardian newspaper yesterday (‘Birmingham school stops LGBT lessons after parents protest’), the school tweeted its own clarification.

‘We are concerned this headline is misleading. Parent meetings/ workshops are soon to begin and our no outsiders work continues.’

In its statement last week, the school also said some parents were supportive of the lessons.

‘Many parents have approached the school in the last few weeks to express support for the No Outsiders ethos and to say they understand what No Outsiders is about and why it is important to teach children about difference in the UK.

‘The school encourages parents to ask their children what No Outsiders is really about, as the children are very clear there is no focus on one aspect of equality, rather No Outsiders teaches that everyone is welcome.’

Disappointment at news

Despite this, many LGBTI campaigners and allies have expressed dismay at the news that the program is temporarily on hold.

Benali Hamdache, co-chair of the LGBTQIA Greens group, wrote on Twitter:

‘I feel this really deeply. As a young gay man in a Muslim household I was denied important information. I was castigated and isolated.

‘We shouldn’t be failing another generation. All kids deserve LGBT+ inclusive education at school.’

Hamdache pointed out that kids these days will discover informaton for themselves on the internet, or ‘will hear stuff via friends. Why wouldn’t you prefer the classroom?’

UK comedian Shappi Khorsandi called the news ‘really sad’, saying it went, ‘Against everything which makes the world a better place. My godless kids have been taken to every place of worship by school to learn about other people’s beliefs/lives, to teach them about difference. This is no different. Take homophobia as seriously as racism.’

‘No school should be blackmailed by parental pressure’

Shaun Dellenty is a former teacher turned diversity-in-education advocate. His book, Celebrating Difference: A Whole School Approach to LGBT+ Inclusion is out this spring.

He told GSN has had some sympathy with the school.

‘As a school leader, your core rationale is that kids are getting the learning they deserve – that means them not walking through parent protests or being kept away from school.

‘However, it also means that learn about the world we live in, which includes LGBT+ people.

‘The school’s statement suggest its committed to this program. It’s simply taking some time out to talk with parents. There are obviously concerns that need to be talked out and worked through. That’s fine, provided the program resumes and there’s no complete backdown. No school should be blackmailed by parental pressure.’

See also

As a gay Muslim man, LGBTI education in school would’ve changed my life

Author: David Hudson

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