A ban against protestors rallying against LGBT teaching at Anderton Park Primary School in Birmingham has been made permanent.
A High Court judge ruled on Tuesday that an interim ban on Shakeel Afsar, Rosina Afsar and Amir Ahmed protesting would be permanently extended. The same injunction applies to all other LGBT teaching protestors.
The ruling came after the court was told the protests have had an adverse impact on pupils, staff and residents.
Mr Justice Warby told the court: “The true nature of the teaching about LGBT issues at the school has been misunderstood by the defendants. They have suggested the school is promoting homosexuality when it is not.”
The judge cited examples of various protesters making “false claims” about paedophilia and teaching about gay sex. “These claims are not true”, he ruled.
Police who kept order at the protests testified they were potentially dangerous but the judge did not accept that the protesters posed a risk of harm to others. So Mr Justice Warby ruled he would not apply powers of arrest to the injunction against the Afsars and Ahmed.
However, costs were awarded against the main defendants who must now pay 80 per cent of the council’s costs.
Following the verdict Anderton Park headteacher Sarah Hewitt Clarkson voiced her relief. She said the ordeal had been “awful” for her, her staff and parents and pupils. And she paid tribute to the backing she had received throughout the case.
On the other hand, the protesters said they were victims of the “white establishment” and said their campaign would go on at the edge of the exclusion zone.
At a press conference Shakeel Afsar and Amir Ahmed claimed the ruling was “biased” and unjust. Mr Afsar said the mainly Muslim protestors and their supporters from all faiths were up against a white establishment, saying: “The judge is white, the council barrister is white, the witnesses were white.”
He said the judge believed everything put to him by the council and their witnesses but disbelieved everything put to him by the defendants.
He added that the protesters were not homophobic – but that they could not accept the teaching of LGBT issues to their children.
Meanwhile, Amir Ahmed said an appeal was “very likely” against the ruling and the costs award but a decision would be made once the full judgement was concluded.
Cllr Kerry Jenkins, who represents the area around the school, said: “I am very pleased to that Mr Justice Warby has ruled to keep the exclusion zone outside of Anderton Park School in place. This situation has been ongoing since March and has had a terrible impact on pupils, staff and residents.
“It is clear that these protests have been orchestrated by a small number of people with their own agendas. I have seen for myself some of the bullying and harassing methods employed in this poisonous campaign.
“I am also pleased the judge rejected claims from the main protaganists that the school was promoting homosexuality and has recognised the protests made false claims. Quite simply, parents have been lied to and given false information and the protests have had little to do with genuine concerns.
“The community has suffered deep divisions which may never be fully repaired and that is unforgiveable. This ruling, to keep the exclusion zone in place, clearly shows us the way forward is not to stand outside of schools screaming and shouting. I truly believe the only way forward now is through honest conversation and the sharing of genuine information.”
And Birmingham City Council’s Dr Tim O’Neill said: “We are really pleased for the pupils, staff, parents and wider community that the injunction has been upheld. This was always about protecting the school and community from the escalating levels of anti-social behaviour of the protests, not about trying to stop peaceful protest.
“As this court case has demonstrated, there remains a gap between the reality of what is and isn’t being taught at the school. Protests of this kind only serve to attract fringe elements whose aim is to stoke division and hatred. We would therefore continue to encourage any concerned parents to engage with the school to have constructive discussions and address any issues.
“Looking ahead, it is important to remember that the Department for Education is introducing compulsory relationships education next year, helping children from all backgrounds understand the society they are growing up in, and fostering respect for others and for difference.
“This will include consultation with parents, giving them space to share concerns and ask questions, and allowing the school to listen to parents’ views, though ultimately the school will decide on how this part of the curriculum is taught. It is really important therefore that we support and create opportunities to have open dialogue at all our schools across the city.
“Birmingham is diverse and inclusive – these are its strengths – and we must all come together to ensure all children get the best education possible and are able to fully engage in all aspects of their life in this wonderful city and country. To this end the city council will continue to work with the school to look at the best way to resolve any ongoing concerns.
“The city council will always stand up for the rights of all children, whoever they are and whatever family they are from. Thanks must go to everyone involved in bringing this case to court and for the school staff, pupils, parents and wider community for their patience as we took the painstaking steps to ensure the case would be successful.”