The Bookseller – News – Teachers vote to strike after gay author Green banned from Catholic school

Teachers at a Catholic state school in south London have voted to take strike action after a talk by gay YA author Simon James Green was canceled on the grounds his books were “not in line with Catholic education”.

Green had been scheduled to attend John Fisher School in Purley, Croydon, for a talk and book signing to commemorate World Book Day on 7th March, however the Education Commission of Southwark Archdiocese intervened to prevent the event from taking place.

The school’s senior leadership team initially gave the talk the green light, however after a number of the school’s governors backed the decision, the diocese intervened to prevent the talk. It also removed several governors.

In a statement at the time, the diocese said: “From time to time, materials or events emerge for consideration that fall outside the scope of what is permissible in a Catholic school” and that: “In such circumstances, we have no alternative but to affirm our unequivocal and well-known theological and moral precepts and to act in accordance with them.”

An email was also sent to parents by the school’s chaplain stating that Green’s books were “not in line with Catholic education and are contrary to the ethos of our school and to the teachings of the Church”.

Now members of the National Education Union at John Fisher School in Croydon have voted overwhelmingly to take industrial action, with 90% supporting strike action on a 76% turnout, according to the i.

Responding to the decision in a tweet, Green, whose latest book gay-club is being published by Scholastic in May, said: “We have to make a stand against LGBTQ+ book censorship. And these school staff have. I applaud and thank every one of them. But it’s not about me—it’s about the students, LGBT or not, who deserve (and need) to see their realities, and those of their peers, reflected in books.”

At the time of the ban, Scholastic said in a statement: “Scholastic supports and celebrates LGBTQ authors and illustrators and their works and we stand with Scholastic author Simon James Green and his beautiful stories, full of warmth, humor and authenticity. Simon’s many successful appearances in schools have resonated with children and teachers alike, encouraging reflection on acting with tolerance and acceptance, as well as giving a voice to children who may feel like they do not have one.”

Pauline Buchanan, the London regional secretary for the NEU, said “NEU members at John Fisher have voted overwhelmingly to take strike action against a discriminatory working environment following the cancellation of the visit of author Simon James Green on World Book Day (3rd March).

“School governors who invited the author were sacked. NEU had written to the Southwark Archdiocese and asked that both the visit and the board were reinstated. NEU received a response which said the Archdiocese were not prepared to comment.

“The result of the ballot today shows that our members will not stand by and watch those who identify as LGBT+ be singled out for adverse and degrading treatment. We will continue to challenge this unfair and draconian decision and fight for respect for all.

“NEU intends to hold a public meeting before our first day of strike action to highlight this shocking behaviour.”

According to the ithe strike is due to take place over a three-week period starting on 28th April, with teachers set to walk out for six days in total.

The Bookseller has contacted John Fisher School and the Archdiocese of Southwark for comment.

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