A Christian school governor with 40 years’ experience working as a nurse has been suspended for questioning why parents had not been properly consulted over the introduction of a school Pride month and LGBT themed books into the school library.
Since the early 1990s, Mrs Maureen Griffith, 74, had been a governor at Alperton Community School in Brent, North London. There, she helped shape the school’s curriculum, pioneered the school’s health and safety policies and introduced better disabled access. Passionate about making a difference to her community, paired with a deep love of children, Mrs Griffith had also given advice and guidance to children at the school from difficult backgrounds for decades.
Passionate about making a difference
Growing up in Barbados under British rule as the eldest of 11 siblings, Mrs Griffith’s ambition had been to come to the UK to train to be a nurse. In 1964, at the age of 16, she arrived in London and, after completing her training, worked as a general nurse at Neasden Hospital. After having a family and finding a church, she was recommended by her pastor to become a school governor.
A stickler for detail and for things being done properly, Mrs Griffith always requested any relevant documentation in hard copy prior to meetings so that everything could be properly scrutinised. This was no different at the Curriculum and Standards meeting on 1 May 2019. One booklet she received ahead of the meeting was from the school’s library, where new members of staff planned to introduce genre-specific reading lists for LGBT Pride Month for the next school year.
Parents not properly consulted
“At the meeting,” Mrs Griffith said, “I raised that the introduction of LGBT books and Pride month into the school had not been mentioned before at any previous meetings. I said that parents had not been consulted and that there would be parents with children from religious backgrounds who would object and not want their children to have this form of sex education. I urged them to consider those families, and added that as a parent myself, I would not have wanted my sons to be reading LGBT books or to be involved in an LGBT Pride month.
“As I said this, a member of staff stood up and left the room and the clerk of the school began to rage at me saying: ‘Look what you’ve gone and done, you’ve upset him.’ She then told me that I should be accepting of what was happening as it is law.
“I know there were members of staff present who were glad that I raised the issue as they felt unable to do so themselves. After this, my understanding is that two people present complained about what I had said.”
Suspension a ‘last resort’
On 21 May 2019, Mrs Griffith received a letter from school’s clerk, Jo Sattaur, telling her that she had “breached the Governors Code of Conduct and made homophobic comments at a public meeting, that were offensive to members of staff.”
The letter explained that she had been suspended, that an investigation would begin, and that “the governing board will only use suspension/removal as a last resort after seeking to resolve any difficulties or disputes in more constructive ways.” The letter added that: “In all maintained schools, and where an academy trust board decides, the chair is permitted to act in cases of urgency where a delay in exercising the function would be likely to be seriously detrimental to the interests of the school, a pupil, a parent or member of staff.”
After seeking help from the Christian Legal Centre, Mrs Griffith wrote to the school in response to the suspension asking for full details of the allegations against her and asking what she had said that had caused such offence.
She wrote: “I respectfully invite you to reconsider my suspension. As you say, the code of conduct states that the suspension is a ‘last resort’, which will only be used when strictly necessary. Surely, suspension is only necessary and appropriate in cases of serious misconduct, not for a comment someone objects to.”
Accompanied by Christian Concern co-founder, Pastor Ade Omooba MBE, Mrs Griffith attended a meeting at the school on 3 July and was assured that there would be a ‘speedy conclusion’ to the process. However, over three months later, Mrs Griffith has still heard nothing.
No scrutiny allowed
“My mother always taught me that things have to be done properly,” Mrs Griffith said. “Therefore, whether as a nurse where I am responsible for patient safety or as a governor where I am responsible for a child’s education and shaping the school environment, it is my job to notice things that others do not. In meetings where someone may want to push something through, I scrutinise, and this leads to discussion, debate and finding consensus on the right way to move forward.
“When they told me I had been ‘homophobic’ for scrutinising the introduction of LGBT Pride month, I had to go home and look up what it meant. I couldn’t believe it. It never occurred to me that I could be ‘homophobic’ or scared of something. These things don’t come into my head.
“But now with this LGBT agenda, not just in schools, but across society, there is no debate, no questioning and there is only a one-way democracy.
“I loved being part of education and planning what was happening at the school. I am, however, at peace over the whole situation. I am not annoyed; I am only saddened that this is happening in this country.
“My faith in Jesus is very important to me in good and bad times – it is my be all and end all. I can do nothing without His help, and he makes my burden lighter. This is how my mum brought me up.”
No one is exempt from punishment
Andrea Williams, Chief Executive of the Christian Legal Centre, said: “What has taken place at this school is a microcosm of what is happening across our society and sends a clear message to teachers, governors and students: if you oppose the LGBT agenda you will be silenced and punished.
“No one is exempt, not even a kind, caring and compassionate woman in her 70s who has dedicated her whole life to caring for others and increasing the life chances of children and improving her community.
“Such censure for merely questioning whether books with LGBT themes are appropriate for school libraries, and asking whether parents had been properly consulted, cannot go unchallenged. We call on the school to reinstate Mrs Griffith and issue a full apology.”