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Tribunal finds school was right to sack assistant for anti-LGBT comments

A Christian teaching assistant who was sacked after posting anti-LGBT content on Facebook was not discriminated against because of her religious beliefs, an Employment Tribunal has found. Humanists UK, which has campaigned for LGBT inclusive RSE for over fifty years, has welcomed the judgment, saying that schools should have a zero-tolerance approach to the expression of homophobic, biphobic, or transphobic views among members of staff charged with the education and care of young people.

Kristie Higgs was dismissed from Farmor’s School in Fairford, Gloucestershire, for gross misconduct after a complaint was made about a Facebook post she wrote saying the introduction of statutory relationships and sex education (RSE) involves ‘brainwashing our children’ and in which she expressed concern that children would be taught that same-sex relationships were normal. Another post referred to ‘the LGBT crowd with the assistance of the progressive School systems… destroying the minds of normal children by promoting mental illness’.

Mrs Higgs claimed that, by taking her through a disciplinary process and later dismissing her, the school had unlawfully discriminated against her on the grounds of her Christian beliefs, including a ‘lack of belief in same-sex marriage’ and ‘belief in marriage as a divinely instituted life-long union between one man and one woman’.  However, the Tribunal rejected this argument, concluding that ‘not only the dismissal but the entire proceedings taken against Mrs Higgs were motivated by a concern on the part of the School that, by reason of her posts, she would be perceived as holding unacceptable views in relation to gay and trans people.’ The school was concerned that her continuing employment would impact how parents and pupils would view it, and thereby prevent it from being a safe, welcoming space.

Humanists UK Education Campaigns Manager Dr Ruth Wareham commented:

‘All children, including those who are LGBT, have a right to feel safe and accepted while they are at school. By sharing homophobic and transphobic content implying that same-sex relationships are abnormal and that LGBT people are mentally ill, Ms Higgs completely undermined the school’s ability to offer an LGBT-inclusive environment to its pupils and it had no choice but to sack her.

‘All the best evidence shows that inclusive RSE plays a vital role in helping children and young people to grow up healthy, happy, and safe. The flagrantly prejudiced attitudes against LGBT people that motivate a large proportion of anti-RSE activists must be strongly resisted and those who express them should have no place working in our schools.’

Notes:

For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK Education Campaigns Manager Dr Ruth Wareham at ruth@humanism.org.uk or phone 020 7324 3000 or 07725 110 860.

Read the full tribunal judgement.

Read our most recent article on new Government RSE implementation guidance.

Read our piece on new Ofsted guidance that says schools must teach respect for LGBT people.

Read our piece on the introduction of relationships and sex education in England.

Read more about our work on relationships and sex education.

Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by over 85,000 members and supporters, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. We provide ceremonies, pastoral care, education, and support services benefitting over a million people every year and our campaigns advance humanist thinking on ethical issues, human rights, and equal treatment for all.

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