Birmingham & Black Country

Birmingham LGBT row: Protesters banned from school

Image caption Birmingham City Council said the risk by protesters was "too serious"

Protesters against LGBT teaching at a primary school have been banned from gathering outside the gates by a High Court injunction.

Birmingham City Council pursued the legal action after months of demonstrations outside Anderton Park Primary School.

The school had to close early before half-term due to escalating action.

The council said it sought the urgent injunction after the risk to children became "too serious to tolerate".

It said the behaviour of demonstrators was "increasingly unacceptable".

Parents, children and protestors demonstrate against the lessons about gay relationships, which teaches children about LGBT rights at the Anderton Park Primary School, Birmingham. Image copyright PA
Image caption Protests have been held outside Anderton Park School for several weeks

The authority said it made the application in order to protect staff and pupils when they return from their half-term break on Monday.

Protesters were not made aware of the High Court application but told the BBC they still intended to gather next week on a street further away from the school.

The injunction will be in place until 10 June, when those against the diversity teachings will be given the chance to make their case in front of a judge.

The exclusion zone covers the streets around the school, which sits on Dennis Road, from Taunton Road, Yardley Lane and Birchwood Road.

Council leader Ian Ward said "common sense had prevailed".

He said: "Children right across Birmingham should be free to attend school safely and without disruption."

He urged parents and campaigners to "take this opportunity to engage in constructive dialogue with the school".

Parents began protesting over concerns their children were "too young" to learn about LGBT relationships. They also said the lessons contradicted Islam.

On Thursday, the former chief prosecutor for the north-west of England, Nazir Afzal, who was brought in to mediate the matter, said parents were being "manipulated".

Shakeel Afsar Image copyright PA
Image caption Shakeel Afsar has coordinated the protests outside Anderton Park

Jess Phillips, Labour MP for Yardley, said the council had "done the right thing for the children", adding "it's just a shame it has come to this thanks to the bigotry of a few".

Lead protester Shakeel Afsar, who does not have children at the school, tweeted that he will be challenging the injunction, adding: "I will stress to parents - don't back down. If you feel you are right, invoke your democratic rights."

Ajmal Masroor - an imam and founder of Communities in Action - told Newsnight: "It's people's democratic right to protest and the city council can bring as many injunctions as they like but they cannot silence people's discontent.

"The only way we can create harmony and peace is by dialogue, by communicating and having love and respect. That's what's missing in the current narrative."

The injunction forbids organising or encouraging demonstrations and printing or distributing leaflets. Those in breach of it will be subject to arrest.

It also forbids posting offensive or abusive messages on social media about members of staff at the school in relation to equalities teachings.

Anderton Park head teacher Sarah Hewitt-Clarkson previously spoke of receiving threatening emails and phone calls.

She told Newsnight the injunction was a "step forward to solving the issues from a judge who has looked at some evidence and has said 'OK this doesn't appear to be peaceful, this is causing harm and distress'."

In response to the call for dialogue with the community, she said: "We've always had dialogue. I think every school has had dialogue with its parents all the time. This has been thrust upon us from almost nowhere because we've been talking about these things in our school since 2010."

Sarah Hewitt-Clarkson
Image caption Sarah Hewitt-Clarkson received threats and branded the protests as "aggressive"

Education Secretary Damian Hinds welcomed the injunction and said it was "not right to protest in front of schools".

"This will allow children to return to school and parents to continue peaceful and constructive discussions with staff," he said.

The protests spread to Anderton Park from Parkfield Community School in Alum Rock, where parents raised a petition in January claiming some of the teaching contradicted Islam.

The "No Outsiders" scheme, created by one of its teachers Andrew Moffatt, had been running at Parkfield since 2014.

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