The tensions between protesters against teaching the LGBTQ course at Birmingham’s Anderton Park Primary, the school’s administration, as well as the authorities, peaked on 20 May when anti-hate activists were attacked and the school’s head teacher received threats.
As The Sun reported, MP for Birmingham Yardley Jess Phillips confronted one of the organisers of the protests, Shakeel Afsar, claiming that parents had kept 600 children away from lessons over the equality teaching controversy. Talking to Afsar, who is spearheading the campaign despite having no children at the school in question, she insisted that his supporters could not "pick and choose" which equality they want. The woman also accused them of smearing "the reputation of a peaceful" Muslim community in the city.
Thank you @jessphillips for speaking so passionately and standing up for the #LGBTQ+ community. You can’t pick and choose which equalities you accept, it doesn’t work like that. Spot on. pic.twitter.com/87phPKvZk8— Tom Knight (@TJ_Knight) May 20, 2019
The lawmaker has urged that an exclusion area be introduced "to protect the 700 children" while the local authorities are looking into ways to counter protesters using the Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) to secure the pupils’ rights to attend school.
"It's one thing for parents to ask questions about elements of a school curriculum, it's quite another for others to pounce on the situation as an excuse to peddle hatred and misinformation”, head of the Birmingham City Council Ian Ward said to the BBC.
Police came to the site on Monday after the recent flare-up over the LGBTQ course. According to Birmingham Live, officers were earlier alerted after the supporters of the school’s stance were reportedly attacked by unknown individuals, who threw eggs at activists with pro-LGBTQ placards and banners.
The police are said to be investigating several cases of assault and criminal damage. Additionally, a probe has been launched into the reported threats to head teacher Sarah Hewitt-Clarkson, who lambasted the mainly Muslim protests as “very loud”, “aggressive”, and “tiresome", the BBC reported.
The protests at Anderton Park Primary, spearheaded by Shakeel Afsar, have been going on for seven weeks. According to Sky News, flyers have been spread among the local community calling people to join the campaign against “brainwashing" children that "it's okay to be gay".
Anti LGBT protest: Amir Ahmed leading a protest outside Anderton Park Primary. He is not a parent here. Other people here (who aren’t parents) have told me homosexuality is “disgusting”. A parent here from West Yorkshire tells me he’s starting a national campaign. pic.twitter.com/Gzy6wn3wWH— Becky Johnson (@BeckyJohnsonSky) May 17, 2019
One of the campaigners, Abdullah Bahm has reportedly branded the unrest in Birmingham a "pilot project" for a nationwide campaign.
"This is going to go national, parents are going to complain like this and schools had better get ready for it. They either throw the programme out or parents will withdraw their children odd days to make protests like they're doing here”, he said as cited by the British broadcaster.
Apart from Anderton Park Primary, the introduction of lessons on LGBT lifestyles has resulted in similar opposition at Birmingham’s Parkfield Community School. The Alum Rock Community Forum has been accused by some of "undermining parental rights and aggressively promoting homosexuality”.
Relationships Education, Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) and Health Education that prompted adverse reactions from parents across the UK was recently proposed by the Department for Education to "teach relationships education at primary school, relationships and sex education at secondary school, and health education at all state-funded schools”. The RSE’s new guidance, accounting for lessons on LGBT+ families and how to treat LGBT+ people, aims to come into force in September 2019.