The UK’s education secretary, Damian Hinds, said he supported headteachers who taught an anti-bullying program that featured LBGTI relationships.
Protests broke out in the UK’s second biggest city, Birmingham, after parents refused to let their children go to school over the program. The controversy at Parkfield Community school has captured national attention.
‘I’ve always been clear that I support headteachers to make decisions and we believe in school autonomy, that school leaders are best-placed to make decisions,’ Hinds told Schools Week.
‘Of course, it’s also right to consult with parents. That is just good practice anyway, and in the new guidance that’s quite clear about the need to consult with parents, but yes I do back headteachers.’
In February, the government published its first guidance on sex and relationships in schools. It said from 2020, sex and health education will be compulsory in all schools. The guidance also said it ‘expects’ schools to teach about LGBTI relationships.
The No Outsiders program which sparked the school boycott and protests is an LGBTI-inclusive anti-bullying education program.
After parents kept their children from school, the school’s management temporarily suspended the program.
But that did not stop protestors taking to the streets outside the school. The majority of the students at Parkfield are Muslim, with protestors saying it went against the religion to promote LGBTI relationships. But Christian and Jewish protestors also attended in solidarity.
A speaker at the protest said ‘you can’t be gay and Muslim’. But LGBTI Muslim groups disagreed.
‘We reject the idea that you can’t be LGBTI and Muslim,’ Faizan of Imaan LGBTQI told Gay Star News on Friday.
‘We believe that your sexuality and gender identity are aspects of yourself.
‘Your faith is a choice. Your sexuality and gender are God given and not a choice.’