Teachers at a South London Catholic school have voted to strike after a gay author was banned from visiting on World Book Day.
National Education Union (NEU) members at John Fisher School in Croydon voted ‘overwhelmingly’ to strike against ‘a discriminatory working environment’ after the Archdiocese of Southwark canceled Simon’s visit James Green.
Mr Green, an award-winning screenwriter and author of 11 children’s books, writes novels featuring gay characters, which the school chaplain said fostered a ‘lifestyle choice’ contrary to his teaching and n had “no place” in a Catholic school.
The union ballot ended on Wednesday with 90 percent of public school NEU members backing the strike with a turnout of 76 percent.
The ban was a ‘draconian decision’
Pauline Buchanan, London Regional Secretary of the NEU, said: “The result of today’s ballot shows that our members will not sit idly by and watch those who identify as LGBT+ be singled out for treatment. unfavorable and degrading.”
“We will continue to challenge this unfair and draconian decision and fight for respect for all,” she added.
Mr Green posted a statement on his Twitter account after the union ballot, thanking members who voted to strike.
He said: “We need to take a stand against the censorship of LGBTQ+ books. And this school staff has. I applaud and thank each of them.
“But it’s not about me – it’s about the students, LGBT or not, who deserve (and need) to see their realities, and those of their peers, reflected in books.”
While teachers and governors had approved the visit of the leading writer of LGBT teenage fiction, the event was not sanctioned by Catholic officials, who oversee the school’s trusteeship.
The principals who had invited the author were fired following the controversy and the union said that when they asked the archdiocese to reinstate the visit by the author and the council, they received a response saying they weren’t ready to comment.
The “provisional executive committee” which had then been set up by the diocese and imposed on the school was quickly forced to disband after being told that it was illegal.
The controversial intervention by the diocese has caused widespread unrest within the school, with parents launching a campaign to reinstate governors and education watchdog Ofsted carrying out a rapid inspection.
The union said it intended to hold a public meeting ahead of the first day of the strike to highlight the archdiocese’s “shocking behaviour”.
The i said the teachers’ strike was to take place over a three-week period starting April 28, with teachers to leave for a total of six days.
At the NEU’s annual conference in Bournemouth on Tuesday, delegates said the cancellation of the author’s visit was a throwback to ‘stealth Article 28’ – the law which prohibited councils from ‘promoting the homosexuality”.
It was in force from 1988 to 2000 in Scotland, and until 2003 in England and Wales.
When Mr Green’s invitation was rescinded, the Archdiocese said: ‘From time to time materials and events emerge for consideration that fall outside of what is permitted in a Catholic school.’
“In such circumstances, we have no alternative but to affirm our unequivocal and well-known theological and moral precepts and act in accordance with them,” added Simon Hughes, the Director of Education.
Parents at John Fisher School had expressed shock and anger at what they called the archdiocese’s ‘dinosaur attitude’ and lay activists suggested that public funding for the school be cut.
John Fisher School and the Archdiocese of Southwark have both been contacted for comment.