By Sam Ord
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Teachers at John Fisher school strike to defend LGBT+ education

Workers are battling the homophobic cancellation of author Simon James Green
Issue 2803
20 pickets with rainbow scarf and placards with banner "Reinstate our governors" at John Fisher school

Picketing at John Fisher school on Thursday (Pic: Guy Smallman)

In a defiant stand against bigotry, teachers at John Fisher Catholic School in Purley, south London, are striking to fight an attack on an LGBT+ children’s author.

Governors of the school voted against the homophobic cancellation of author Simon James Green. The religious management body, the archdiocese of Southwark, then sacked most of them and appointed new governors.

One teacher told Socialist Worker the strike hopes “to send a sharp message to the archdiocese”. They added, “We as educators know that inclusion is vital to combat LGBT+ phobia, and the high rates of suicide LGBT+ people experience. Diversity of voices is a remedy to fix that. We have to speak out and stand up against discrimination.”

Around 40 people took to the picket line this morning waving rainbow posters and scarfs with a banner reading, “Reinstate our governors.”

Simon James Green, whose books feature LGBT+ characters, was set to talk to pupils on world book day before the school cancelled his event. He sent brownies to the pickets.

All of those on the picket line want to see him reinvited to spread his message of inclusion and acceptance. He said NEU union members at John Fisher School are “standing up for LGBT students everywhere who need to see the reality of their lives in books”.

The new interim board of governors disgracefully defended the cancellation of Green’s event. The education commissioner Simon Hughes claimed that the books incorporate “grooming” content. Teachers are right to take a stand.

The archdiocese has so far refused to negotiate with NEU members, attending Acas arbitration meetings as observers only.

NEU president Daniel Kebede told Socialist Worker, “This is a direct attack on LGBT+ education that was hard fought for. The archdiocese needs to get round the table and engage in negotiations.”

The striking teachers have received waves of support from their online rallies, petition and letters. One group of LGBT+ pupils at Monks Walk School in Hertfordshire wrote, “You have sent a message to LGBT+ students everywhere that there are teachers willing to stand up for us, which makes us feel so supported.”

The teachers will return to picket lines for two days next week, followed by three days the week after.

The unity of working class people fighting against oppression deserves the support of all workers and activists against oppression.

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