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Head of opera ban school says she wanted to protect children

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  1. Stuart Neyton 6 Jul 2011, 11:55am

    She sounds completely unfit to be in a position of responsibility towards children if she thinks they should be “protected” from references to homosexuality.

  2. gladiatorkid 6 Jul 2011, 12:13pm

    Of course we all know that eleven year olds have never heard the words queer and stupid. Oh yes, we must protect them from this terrible language.

  3. It’s hard to comment without seeing the whole opera, but I think this Head has got it wrong. She should be EDUCATING pupils about bullying, and sometimes that DOES mean showing examples and drawing attention to it. That’s not bad, it’s giving children the opportunity to think and later discuss what they’ve seen.
    Anti-bullying educations sometimes includes examples of bullying and as long as they’re controlled and done carefully, there’s no problem. I really can’t see what the Head’s issues were. When we cover bullying, including the use of the word ‘gay’ as an insult, we mention the word and how it’s mis-used, but that’s not ‘offensive language’.
    The word’ stupid’ isn’t offensive in itself – it’s the way it’s used to hurt and bully. How sad that the children at this school have missed an educational opportunity like this because of some misguided – in my opinion – worry about protecting them.
    If the school isn’t homophobic, then why did the writer get the impression they are?

    1. Iris: I think Mendirin’s comment (next post) is helpful. As you suggest, we can only come to a clear view after having seen the play although there is a case for using this media as a means of preventing homophobic bullying. But I do think the head teacher is right to put significant store on “emotional wellbeing” and not exposing children to “inappropriate language”.

      1. Absolutely, JohnB. Both those things are very important indeed, but what i don’t understand is how it is thought this play could have damaged children’s emotional well-being. The only examples we’ve been given of bad language are things like ‘pee-pee’ (yes, really) and ‘stupid’. Those are things children would hear often at school anyway.
        If it was the portrayal of bullying, then I still don’t see why the purpose of showing that couldn’t have been explained to children and explored in class in a way that would be beneficial.

  4. I’m not sure about that. I can see both points of view. I don’t at all believe that this decision to withdraw the kids was motivated by homophobia. It appears that she genuingly wanted to protect the kids and the school’s reputation. After all, what if many of the parents complained? She’d be held accountable for something she probably didn’t have control over. I think we’re being a little too harsh on her.

    However, Iris makes a good point in that this would be educating pupils and teaching them something not really discussed liberally in a school.

    Perhaps the head should instead contact diversity role models and arrange for a speaker to come in and talk openly about being gay, lesbian, bi or trans in an open and honest manner – without the use of innapropriate language.

    1. @Menderin

      You may be correct. I would argue that having involvement of Lee Hall in a community opera that tackled issues of tolerance these issues could have been predicted prior to the writing starting – and certainly much before 6 months of rehearsals began. It seems both the school and Opera North failed to anticipate the issues and Hall was acting as he had negotiated with both parties. Its scandalous but censorship of someone purely due to their orientation (whether is the motivation or not) is tantamount to homophobia.

    2. Dan Filson 7 Jul 2011, 11:52am

      What if the parents complained? Many will have seen the original film and the fact that Billy has a gay friend is quite explicit. If she wanted to not put on Billy Elliott she could have done so at an early stage. As it is, if she has any bottle she should be able at all times to justify to her parent body putting on a stage production, whether it is an opera or play.

      1. Staircase2 8 Jul 2011, 2:02am

        You do know that this isn’t Billy Elliot right?
        I’m a little confused as to why you would all think it is when its quite clear that this is the guy who WROTE Billy Elliot – it’s his NEW musical….
        Do you guys actually read the articles or just the headlines?

  5. Jock S. Trap 6 Jul 2011, 12:51pm

    Knowing the story of Billy Elliot I wonder why she went ahead in the first place.

    Surely it is important for youngsters to know what is offensive in order to understand why such comments are wrong.

    I suggest the real reason is more because of personal attitude rather than the content of this opera and it’s story.
    Too avoid unwanted questions.

    When schools like that in Stoke Newington are openly teaching about relationships,homophobia and it’s deep long term effects that this head teacher has a duty to allow the children she teaches to grow and be who they are without fear of the bullied and harrassed because her own ego refuses to acknowlegde how the LGBT community impact on society.

    Yet again what we have here is the feeling of the adult overruling that of the welfare of the child.

  6. And how do these kids learn that such insults are wrong if they aren’t exposed to them in a constructive manner? With educators like that, it’s little wonder that children have no respect for anyone around them any more.

  7. This isn’t directly related to this artilce but it seems that in the education bill , 2 lib dem peers are proposing the following change in the sex education rules:

    “…where sex and relationships education is given to registered pupils at schools in England to which this section applies they learn—(a) the nature of marriage and its importance for family life and the bringing up of children,
    (b) the nature of civil partnership….”

    It’s depressing that the lib dems want to distiguish CPs from marriages in sex education and to specifically make it the law that children must be taught that marriages are for the family and the upbring of children and by default that CPs are not!!

  8. I don’t know what kind of world in which she lives, but she ought to go into some of the playgrounds of London schools as an example. I think it would be quite an education for her listening to the expletives and other unpleasant vituperations coming out of some pupils’ mouths.

  9. So Ms Hobbs says she objected to showing homophobic bullying, and Mr Hall says he was adamant that a gay character’s orientation should be discussed openly.
    Couldn’t two apparently well-meaning people achieve a satisfactory outcome from there?
    Some people don’t think the word ‘queer’ can be reclaimed, and though it rhymes nicely with ‘here’, perhaps ‘gay’ could be used instead.
    Ms Hobbs was concerned about the depiction of bullying, but Stonewall offered to organise workshops. Surely no teacher could argue that depicting bullying is unacceptable, provided the scene is not too distressing for the age of the audience and that children have a chance to explore the issues?
    So what on earth happened? Why no resolution?
    Is one of these two lying? Or did the intermediaries (the Council and/or Opera North) stir the pot – whether by intent or incompetence?
    Either way, this is a ridiculous waste of public money. Sit down and sort it out.

    1. Dan Filson 7 Jul 2011, 11:54am

      I really don’t think it has anything to do with the word queer. In this context the singer is self-describing and it is not being used as an epithet.

  10. I thought the woman had a point, until she spoke to the daily mail. now i think she is homophobic.

    1. Same here

      1. She is not homophobic, her own sister is a lesbian in a long term relationship. This is not about her, it’s about the children.

        1. Dan Filson 7 Jul 2011, 11:55am

          And you think there are no homophobes with lesbian sisters?

      2. The comments saying she should work in an inner city school are laughable, where do you think she spent her teaching years?
        As I already have said, she is not homophobic, her own sister is gay. You should really stop bashing her for things that are not even true.

        1. friday jones 6 Jul 2011, 10:30pm

          Newt Gingritch’s sister Candace is a lesbian, that doesn’t mean that Newt isn’t a homophobe who supports institutional homophobia. What defence will you spring on us next, that “some of her best friends are ‘homosexuals?'”

          1. No, but I am speaking personally from being someone who has been related to her my whole life.

            She is not a homophobe. If you want to wrap this up as that then go ahead, make it into something it is not to justify the name calling. I stand by the facts, i know Emma, she is family and you are making this into something it is not.

            I am sorry that you feel the way you do, I am sorry that you do not believe me but instead choose to attack someone and label them so easily.

            You are so wrong, but it obviously doesn’t matter what I say. You have decided you know her better than I and so I will leave you to your view!

        2. Supportive of Thetruth 9 Jul 2011, 5:07pm

          I too am fed up of people bashing someone who is highly regarded in her community and is a genuinely lovely person.
          I have become immune over the past few days to the horrid remarks and the manipulative lies that have been spread about. She has the full support from those that matter – family, friends, colleagues, parents EVEN THE KIDS!!! and the community (even, dare I say it, Opera North!) As Mantle said on Look North – don’t believe everything Lee Hall tells you! It seems ‘these’ people have and their lack of intelligence is damning.
          Despite the Opera now going ahead, the majority of parents have pulled their children out, mainly because of what Lee Hall has done – dragged an innocent school into the media spotlight for his own publicity gain. Besides that, Bridlington feel the whole Opera portrays Bridlington in a negative light!
          On a final note, rehearsals have NOT being going on for six months with the school. They began at the beginning of May and the script arrived at the end!

    2. Staircase2 7 Jul 2011, 1:46am

      Bless you for answering for her – but given the (now) national nature of the circumstances its not down to you to make her case – Bless her, she needs to be doing that herself – she is after all a Headteacher.
      Clearly the writer has made some strong allegations and its only right and fair that the Head answers those.
      It would be very easy for her to be specific about what exactly she objected to.
      I’m mindful of the fact that the story here may not give the full picture which is why she needs to.
      On the face of it so far it does seem somewhat odd though

  11. Mumbo Jumbo 6 Jul 2011, 1:53pm

    Who does she think she is? Helen Lovejoy?

    1. Mumbo Jumbo 6 Jul 2011, 1:56pm

      I’ll try again:

    2. Dan Filson 7 Jul 2011, 11:56am

      Who is Helen Lovejoy?

  12. Andrew Godbold 6 Jul 2011, 1:59pm

    I find it worrying that all of the articles stress that the scene in question was one where the children were not onstage. What difference does it make if they are on or off stage? The kind of attitude displayed by the headteacher (and Opera North) goes a long way to explain why homosexuality is still an issue in the society we live in. Surely children see heterosexual couples and here hetero terminology all the time? The text of the scene that caused the problem was in no way offensive. Even the interview on BBC Radio 4’s front row had the whiff of homophobia in it from interviewer Kirsty Lang. Wake up and smell the coffee ladies – you are born gay just as you are born a dog, a woman, a man, an amoeba. end of story.

    1. Dan Filson 7 Jul 2011, 12:00pm

      For the younger children, references to preferring a lad to a lass will seem to be about playmates, and I as a 5- or 7- or 9-year old could have related to that. From some age on, children will appreciate that they relate better to the same or opposite sex and the deeper meaning will come across. Given that children are exposed on TV (and on games on screens) on a daily basis to violence of all sorts, swearing, rows etc, I think some people are just over-sensitive to exposing primary age children to the possibility that some folk are gay, and should get over it.

  13. I think it’s funny how she says she’s “protecting” children. Protecting from what, exactly? Shielding a child’s eyes and ears from the realities of life might seem noble for some, but that child’s going to be very confused about all these “different” things when it grows up and THAT is what’s really going to mess things up for him/her. Censoring words like “pee-pee” is one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever heard of. People like her are just making the problem 10x worse, and personally I think she should be fired, because SHE’s the one confusing children here.

  14. She’s a homophobe. Simple as that.

    She should be sacked immediately.

    There is no mental or social issues in showing gay people in a play. It is a disgusted and outdated view and has no place in a place of learning.

    1. I know this headteacher in a professional capacity. She is a fantastic headteacher who does a wonderful job for the children in her care. This has been blown out of all proportion. Having read all these comments she is the one being bullied. Stop headteacher bashing.

  15. Another Hannah 6 Jul 2011, 2:17pm

    She is a homophobe. Many childrens films have far worse than this in them. Presumably 101 dalmations or bambi are going to be banned then because of the tone and the possiblity of horrible things happeneing to the characters? Hansel and Gretel banned? It’s easy to spot bigotry if your honest, even if they try to dress it up.
    Surely this is copyright, and the school does not have the right to continue?

  16. I agree. It’s too much for a 4 year old… It could possibly raise to many question for parents to educate their kids on… The implications for a 4 year old having to be educated on the wide range of subjects a few simple words would generate is enough for me to understand why this was pulled. She’s not homophobic just responsible.

    1. This is a copy of an email I just sent to the head teacher…

      Dear Emma

      I don’t know if you’re getting a bad press or simply, and laughably, not upholding the schools motto which promises to ‘Promote positive attitudes, progress and commitment to education’ but the reasons publically put forward for withdrawing pupils from a community opera, over a scene involving a gay character, appear seriously misguided.

      It’s deemed appropriate and responsible to educate and inform young children about issues like faith and racial differences. So why bulk at recognising gay people and relationships? Given that many pupils are part of gay families or belong in families which have gay members, it seems an odd and sad decision not to deliver on the school’s motto and indeed ‘promote positive attitudes’.

      As a parent with a young child, I would have serious concerns about sending my child to your school. In the year 2011, this shouldn’t be something a parent should have to worry about.

      Kind regards

    2. Rashid Karapiet 6 Jul 2011, 7:28pm

      Does everything at this school have to be tailored to the level of understanding etc. of 4-year-olds? Interesting…

  17. What a feeble attempt to defend herself. She is obviously acting out of homophobia. There’s not one offensive word. ‘Pee-pee’ ad ‘poo-poo’ are words a parent would use with a one-year-old! I can’t imagine a more ‘appropriate manner’ for children to learn about the impact of bullying than through a quality piece of educational theatre!

  18. Its about time PN found a way to prevent multiple log ons and brought in some moderation

    1. Agreed. It’d make the comment threads more pleasant for everyone – commenters and readers alike.

  19. I find the whole issue bizarre. It’s deemed appropriate and resposnibile to educate kids on issues like faith and racial differences but bulk at recognising gay people and relationships. Given that many of the pupils will be the result of gay families or be part of families that have gay members wouldn’t that be respoinsible and appropriate?!

  20. Protect children from what …… real life, and language most of them have probably heard before and perhaps not as bad as they hear at home!!!
    A piss-poor justification for her own homophobia!!

  21. Moorfield Storey Institute 6 Jul 2011, 4:53pm

    Is anyone buying the bilge water she’s spewing? She’s been dealing with children too long, she thinks adults are as gullible and will buy what she’s trying to sell. I don’t think so.

  22. Not withstanding her pathetic attempt to cover up her homophobia. it does seem strange that this woman is so concerned with the ’emotional well-being’ of her pupils that she has ignored the impact on those deprived of taking part in the opera. After all their rehearsing, I would imagine they must be pretty emotional about her denying them the opportunity to take part in the opera.

    1. Another Hannah 6 Jul 2011, 6:27pm

      This occured to me too. Some heterosexual kids have difficult teen years, and I don’t want to say thier troubles are nothing, because they aren’t BUT really, what about the troubles gay kids face? Really monumental and you get suicide and all kinds of stuff. And more than that how many apparently heterosexual kids who commit suicide are fighting with a homophobic upbringing. Gay kids face monumental problems yet she seems ONLY concerned with the problems of heterosexual kids.

  23. I wish somebody would ask her what language involving a gay character would be suitable. If it was just about the language I am sure she would be able to give a suitable alternative.

  24. Rashid Karapiet 6 Jul 2011, 7:19pm

    So you see, dear readers of Pink News, you don’t need to be an Indian Minister to be ignorant and bigoted.

  25. As a former pupil of the school (under its old name of Moorfield) I took the time to read all sides of this story and I am ashamed to be a former pupil. What a stupid, ignorant woman this head teacher is and what a bad name and image she has given to the town. What message does she think she is giving to the children of Bridlington?

  26. So when are we going to sue the school? She wouldn’t have got away with it if it was because the cast was black so why is it OK because it’s gay?

  27. I hear her sister’s gay, and they’re really close! I don’t think she’s a homophobe!

  28. How many of the children hear language like this, and worse, at home and on the street? Being afraid to confront reality out of some ill-defined concern about somebody’s sensibilities is of no help. It is people like this teacher who keep this issue being an issue.

  29. Get over it, she made a choice.
    She has taken a stance against the ever millitant homosexual crowd. Good for her.

  30. friday jones 6 Jul 2011, 10:27pm

    I guess in some tiny little minds, the best anti-bullying policy is to pretend bullying doesn’t exist, the same way they try to pretend that LGBT people don’t exist. Because Denial is totally a workable strategy!

  31. Get over it, she made a choice.
    She has taken a stance against the ever millitant homosexual crowd. Good on her for standing her ground, lets hope more follow and take a stance.

    1. Staircase2 7 Jul 2011, 1:52am

      What stance is that then?

  32. Doesn’t sound homophobic, just like she’s an idiot! “Stupid” and “pee-pee” aren’t homophobic. I think this woman is just absolutely daft, but not necessarily anti-gay.

  33. Staircase2 7 Jul 2011, 1:40am

    So its the word ‘Queer’ she’s objecting to then?

  34. unfortunately that is what they all say, homophobes always say that when they push their hatred and lies and evil

  35. Stuart Neyton 6 Jul 2011, 12:42pm

    If I want your opinion I’ll ask for it.

  36. Jock S. Trap 6 Jul 2011, 12:52pm

    I have to question why comment if you don’t want people responding with their opinions.

  37. Stuart, that wasn’t me. Just a pathetically poor attempt at impersonation. And I think I can guess who it was. So I’ve reported him for that too. Idiot.

  38. Stuart Neyton 6 Jul 2011, 1:15pm

    You are off again rambling on . Last time you saw any action was WW2 Im thinking

  39. Jock S. Trap 6 Jul 2011, 2:17pm

    Well that gave me a laugh…

    Never mind, dear!

  40. Stuart Neyton 6 Jul 2011, 3:04pm

    Im glad I amuse you as this is not the real me it is someone else posting under my name! Snarf snarf!

  41. Jock S. Trap 6 Jul 2011, 3:08pm

    In that case I apologise and would like to tell the imposter to get a life… a real one that is, not one belonging to someone else.

  42. Doi go away, you sad loser. You underestimate the intelligence of PN readers if you think you’re silly little attempts at impersonating me work.
    And no, it doesn’t annoy me – because I’m not 12 years old. I pity you. What kind of sad person impersonates others on a comment site?
    But you won’t even stop to think, will you? A lack of self-awareness is the matk of an internet troll. I pity you because I cringe on your behalf. Poor thing.

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