Workers at John Fisher Catholic school in Purley, south London, are keeping up their defiant stand for LGBT+ rights. The NEU union members rounded-off a two-day strike on Thursday—and plan to walk out for three more from Tuesday of next week.
The Catholic school was set to hold a world book day event with young adult author Simon James Green, whose books include LGBT+ characters. An intervention from the archdiocese religious management body cancelled it despite opposition from teachers and school governors. Two governors resigned their positions as a result of the homophobic decision while the rest were removed by the archdiocese.
The move is incredibly harmful to LGBT+ students and school workers, who already face higher levels of bullying. Green said, “We have to make a stand against LGBT+ book censorship. And these school staff have. I applaud and thank every one 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.”
The landmark strike has received mass support from students, parents and other schools. Many teachers see the archdiocese’s decision as a return to Tory Margaret Thatcher’s Section 28, which effectively banned the discussion of LGBT+ issues in schools.
Currently the church does not appoint all the school governors at John Fisher. But NEU members are concerned that the church would have more control if the school was academised.
The workers have two clear demands—reinstate the governors and invite Green to talk about his books. Pauline Buchanan, NEU London regional secretary, said, “Our members will not stand by and watch those who identify as LGBT+ be singled out for adverse and degrading treatment. We will continue to challenge this unfair and draconian decision and fight for respect for all.”
The John Fisher strike is an important example of how working class people can take collective action in the fight against oppression, not just pay or conditions. The action has shut the school.
Every socialist, trade unionist and campaigner should support the strikers’ vital stand against LGBT+ phobia. A win at John Fisher would send a clear message that resistance can beat back the bigots.
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