Press Release

Headteacher reported for excluding Christian children over alleged anti-LGBT comments

30 June 2019         Issued by: Christian Legal Centre

A primary school headteacher, who forced children to participate in a Gay Pride parade last year, has now been reported to the local authority for unlawfully excluding 10-year-olds based on alleged anti-LGBT comments.

Susan Papas, head of Heavers Farmer Primary School, Croydon, South London, excluded a boy and a girl for five days after one of the children asked a teacher for permission not to participate in an LGBT lesson during Gay Pride Month.

On June 20, Farrell, sitting next to his friend Kaysey in class, asked his year 5 class teacher, “Sir, please may I not take part in this lesson?” when the teacher handed out LGBT material for colouring. The teacher refused permission saying that the LGBT lesson was part of the curriculum.

After class, the form teacher is said to have accused Farrell of using “homophobic language” for allegedly saying, “LGBT sucks and LGBT’s dumb,” which the child denies.

Farrell, who was sitting with female pupil Kaysey says he is a Christian and told a “visitor teacher” he did not “accept LGBT” because of his religion.

The teacher asked the two children, “Do you want them to die?” “We said no,” Farrell replied. If, however, they went back to their countries, they would be punished for being gay, Farrell told the teacher.

The teacher asked Farrell where he was from. Farrell said he was of “African Jamaican” heritage, and because there “everybody is Christian and Catholic, so they don’t accept LGBT.”

Later, Ms Papas shouted at the two children in front of the class, according to Kaysey. “How dare you? You are a disappointment to the school,” Papas told the two children outside the classroom.

Papas then put the children in different rooms and asked Kaysey: “How dare you say that you want to kill LGBT people?” Kaysey replied : “I didn’t say kill.” Papas then shouted at her and said, “Yes, you did, and don’t lie.”

Kaysey, a pentecostal Christian, says she was kept in detention for five hours from 10am to 3pm.

Parents of both children have complained to the Principal Officer—Exclusions Prevention of the local authority citing paragraph 13 of the statutory Exclusions Guidance (2017): “It is unlawful to exclude for a non-disciplinary reason.”

The section also states that “it would be unlawful to exclude a pupil” for failing “to meet specific conditions before they are reinstated, such as to attend a reintegration meeting,” which the school is insisting on in the case of the two children.

Both parents insist their children did not make homophobic comments and the children’s version is supported by other children in the class and their parents. They quote paragraph 8 of the Exclusions Guidance: “When establishing the facts in relation to an exclusion decision the head teacher must apply the civil standard of proof; i.e. ‘on the balance of probabilities’ it is more likely than not that a fact is true, rather than the criminal standard of ‘beyond reasonable doubt.’”  

In separate letters, the parents also point out that “the imposition of a 5-day exclusion lacks both the necessary proportionality and fairness (para. 6 of the Guidance) required to justify such a lengthy punishment” given the “age, maturity, religious and cultural background” of their children.

“You have acted in a manner contrary to the school’s Equality Duty; precisely the duty to eliminate discrimination based on religion or belief and to foster good relations among those with protected characteristics (para. 10 of the Guidance),” the parents add in their letter to the headteacher.

The parents, Karen Francis-Austin and Lisa Spence, have also asked that their children “be excused from any further teaching or activities which involve the promotion of LGBT campaigning points.”

Further, the parents cite Section 9 of the European Convention of Human Rights (as transposed into domestic law by the Human Rights Act 1998) insisting that “maintained schools must have regard to the principle that pupils are to be educated in accordance with the wishes of their parents” and Protocol 1, Article 2 creates a statutory obligation on the school to respect the manner in which the parents seek to raise their children in accordance with their Christian faith.

“I would further contend that the imposition on parents of divisive campaigning materials which run afoul of my family’s deeply held religious beliefs amounts to indoctrination both within the meaning of Protocol 1, Article 2 of the Convention and Section 406-407 of the Education Act 1996, and is therefore wholly forbidden,” the parents write.

This is not the first time Papas’ militant promotion of the LGBT agenda has roused the ire of parents at the school which educates 750 pupils in a highly multicultural and multi-religious borough of London.

On June 29, 2018, parents threatened to protest at a playground pride parade organised by the primary school.

Papas had sent out letters inviting parents to watch the “Proud to be Me!” parade and join in celebrating “the rainbow of things that make them and their family special.”

Fourteen parents complained that Papas was “forcing a very aggressive LGBT agenda on to young children in a manner which abuses parental rights and victimises parents.”

Christian mother, Izzy Montague, refused to allow her four-year-old son to take part in the parade and complained to Education Secretary Damian Hinds that the school had embarked on “systematic proselytism of its young and vulnerable pupils.”

The Christian Legal Centre, which is supporting Izzy Montague, argued that the school made “LGBT matters a pervasive element of school life,” including the school’s website featuring a Year 1 pupil with a placard that she had written after a lesson about Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech: “I have a dreem if bois cood go to the saim toilet as gerls.”

Montague says she felt “bullied” and the school was antagonistic towards her after she complained about her child “being forced to take part in an event that goes against our Christian beliefs.” She later transferred her child to a Catholic school.

Parents were further outraged when Attie Papas, the head’s daughter, wore a t-shirt with the words: “Why be racist, sexist, homophobic or transphobic, when you can just be quiet?” when meeting with them.

Papas said that the t-shirt worn by her daughter — a graduate student of ‘sports sociology and feminist theory’ whose papers include “A Feminist Psychoanalytic Approach to the Roles of the Penis, the Phallus and Hegemonic Gender Norms in ‘Feminist Porn’” — was not in breach of the school’s code of conduct.

Ruth Anderson, a parent from Thornton Heath, said Papas had abused her role as headteacher in planning the pride march and should step down. Mrs Anderson explained that several parents had refused to let their children go to school on the day of the march in protest against the pride march.

“There were rainbow flags around the school, and the kids were even told to wear bright colours. That’s not having pride in yourself, that is blatant support for LGBT. I am not homophobic, but my faith teaches me a certain set of beliefs, and I do not want my child’s school making her choices for her,” Anderson said.

Even though the event was cancelled, after an outcry from the parents, an unrepentant Papas said: “We stand by our decision to celebrate national Pride Month by teaching British values. We will continue to raise awareness of the diverse nature of our whole school community to ensure that everyone feels valued.”

The Christian Legal Centre is supporting Karen Francis-Austin, mother of Kaysey, and Lisa Spence, mother of Farrell.

Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre said:

“This is why parents are beginning to see the dangers of the imposition of the new sexual and gender ideology that does not permit dissent even from  innocent ten year old children.

“This demonstrates how insecure this new sexual ideology is. It cannot tolerate the challenge of innocent ten-year-old children.

“Here we see the fragility of this whole sexual agenda imposed on our children and unable to withstand the challenge of innocent ten year old children.

“When bullies know that right is not on their side they resort to coercion and intimidation. That is exactly what is being played out in Heavers Farm Primary School.

“It is not the sign of a life-giving ideology being promoted in a school when it has to resort to such heavy-handed and cruel tactics on ten-year-old children to force them to accept something that, instinctively, they do not,” she emphasised.

Labour MP for Croydon North Steve Reed, who is openly gay and a strong advocate for LGBT rights has previously supported Papas. After attending the scaled-down pride event in 2018, he tweeted: “With the wonderful staff and children at Heavers Farm for their Pride celebration—very proud of them for standing up for equality and diversity.”


Notes for editors

Video – Here you can watch a video/interview with Kaysey, one of the children involved

Exclusion from maintained schools, academies and pupil referral units in England: Statutory guidance for those with legal responsibilities in relation to exclusion

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