The head teacher at a school in Birmingham, England, has been receiving threatening emails and phone calls over the school’s LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum.
There have been protests at Anderton Park Primary School over the curriculum almost every day for the past seven weeks, the BBC reports. “The complaints at Anderton Park, mainly from Muslim protesters, focus on lessons for which pupils have been given books featuring cross-dressing children and gay families,” according to the broadcaster. The lessons, known as “relationship education,” have drawn criticism elsewhere in England as well, but they will become compulsory in all schools next year.
Police are now investigating the threats to head teacher Sarah Hewitt-Clarkson. The news report did not specify the nature of the threats but said the investigation also extends to clashes between protesters and counter-protesters outside the school. Eggs have been thrown at counterprotesters, and there have been three reports of assault and two of criminal damage, the BBC notes.
The protests have been disruptive, Hewitt-Clarkson said. “There’s a whole variety of emotions: embarrassment for lots of our community and our parents who think this is just awful what’s happening; frustration that it’s going on so long; frustration that great British laws like ‘you can protest peacefully’ actually are causing us a problem,” she told the BBC. “It’s interesting what a normal person on the street would think peaceful means and what actually is peaceful outside here.” The demonstrations are “loud,” “aggressive,” and “tiresome,” she said.
She has scheduled a dozen meetings with parents over the next month to address the situation, she said. She has been accused of being Islamophobic because many of the protesters are conservative Muslims, but she said she believes in “equality for everybody.”
The leader of the protests, Shakeel Afsar, called the lessons “social engineering programs which undermine our family values by promoting child sexualization.” Afsar, who has no children at the school, claimed that 600 of the 700-member student body were kept out of school in protest Monday. But Anderton Park officials said at least half the students were in school.
Supporters of the curriculum have posted positive messages on the school building, with “Love Is the Answer” and other supportive slogans inside heart shapes.
Police and city officials are considering whether the school can be made an “exclusion zone” where protests can be banned. “Frankly, a primary school is no place for the continuance of a large-scale protest, however lawful,” Dave Thompson, chief constable for the West Midlands region, told The Guardian.
“In this holy period of Ramadan, and as we celebrate Pride in our city, I urge those involved and those who can influence these events to think again and consider how they can come together to discuss these strongly held views and bring this protest to an end,” he added.