Thu, Nov 22, 2018 - Page 14 News List

Parent threatens legal action over school’s ‘gay pride parade’

Izoduwa Adhedo accuses south London primary of trying to ‘indoctrinate’ her son against her beliefs

By Harriet Sherwood  /  The Guardian

A school bus drives through the UK’s West Yorkshire. A parent has criticised a London school for holding a parade that promotes equality.

Photo: Reuters

A London primary school is facing the prospect of legal action after a Christian parent formally complained about a “Proud to be Me” event she claims promoted LGBT lifestyles.

Heavers Farm school in South Norwood has strongly denied that it organized a “gay pride parade” earlier this year, but Izoduwa Adhedo claims her son was forced to take part “in an event that goes against our Christian beliefs.”

Adhedo, whose son has since been withdrawn from the school, was due to meet school governors on Tuesday evening to press a formal complaint. She is being supported by Christian Concern, a conservative evangelical organization whose legal arm takes up cases of perceived religious discrimination. A spokesperson said the Adhedo family was looking at potential legal action if the complaint was not resolved.

The complaint centers on an event organized by the school in June, in which pupils were encouraged to march with banners highlighting what made them proud to be themselves.

In a message to parents, the school said: “At this parade each child will be celebrating what makes them proud of themselves and their family. We encourage you to talk to your children about what they will be celebrating.”

Susan Papas, the headteacher, said that “[e]quality is a thread that goes through our curriculum. We’ve done projects on black history month, disability and women’s history. At the end of the year we decided to do something on anti-homophobia as part of Pride month, taking the idea that people and families can be different but everyone can be proud. There were some objections but they were outweighed by support.”

She declined to comment on Adhedo’s complaint, saying she could not discuss individual pupils or their families.

In a statement, Adhedo said: “After I complained about my young child being forced to take place in an event that goes against our Christian beliefs, the school’s attitude towards me changed completely. I know other parents who are afraid to speak up because of how the school has treated me. It was like being bullied. They stopped treating me like any other parent but were antagonistic towards me.”

Adhedo said the school retaliated against her by unreasonably excluding her from the premises, victimizing her child and not taking her safeguarding concerns seriously.

“I wasn’t even trying to stop the Pride event. I just wanted my child to receive an education, rather than indoctrination,” she said.

According to Christian Concern, Adhedo withdrew her son from the school last month after he was put in detention for three hours. The school insisted its maximum detention was one hour, in line with its behavior policy.

Roger Kiska of Christian Concern said: “It is inappropriate for children to be proselytized on this issue. The school has crossed a line.”

Under the Human Rights Act, schools were obliged to respect the rights of parents’ religious and philosophical convictions in providing education, he added.

Heaver Farm school had run a “systematic campaign celebrating [LGBT] lifestyles,” he said. “It goes beyond a parade, including children being read to from certain books and posters being put on walls. When you start making that the enterprise of education it becomes proselytizing.”

According to the school’s policy published on its Web site, “issues such as bullying, racism, homophobia, sexism and prejudice are dealt with in lessons and assemblies. Classes visit places of worship that are important to different faiths. Special celebration events are held and parents and visitors from different cultures, faiths or religions share their beliefs, customs, food and knowledge; all greatly enhancing learning within the schools.”

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