Shraga Stern, a Haredi parent living in the UK, sent a letter to the secretary of state for education, Damian Hinds, saying: “Many members of the community would choose to leave the United Kingdom for a more hospitable jurisdiction rather than comply with such an obligation to mention homosexuality or gender reassignment in a positive context at school,” the Guardian reported Sunday.
Stern told the Observer: “We teach our children, at home and in school, to respect every person, but we will not teach them about LGBT issues.”
Stern was referring to an advisory guide titled The independent school standards: “Advice for independent schools,” published last March by the Department for Education (DfE). Stopping short of threatening to haul yeshiva students into reeducation camps, the guide states:
The requirement is that the Personal, Social and Health Education (PSHE) curriculum must be designed to encourage respect for other people, with particular regard to the protected characteristics set out in the Equality Act 2010. It is not sufficient for a school to say that it meets this standard because its curriculum encourages respect for all people in a general way; that is not paying particular regard to protected characteristics.
In order for the “independent schools” (e.g. Haredi yeshivas) to walk the walk, the guide stresses, “We would expect children of secondary school age to know about the protected characteristics and accordingly understand the ways that people can be different and respect people who are different in those ways.”
And, of course, “if there were some occurrence or event involving one or more of the protected characteristics which became an issue amongst the pupils, the school should help the children understand and respect that.”
Wait, there’s more: the prescribed standard will not be met, according to the guide, “if, for example, the PSHE curriculum:
- encourages pupils to see those of particular races or religions as being inferior in any way;
- suggests to male pupils that women and girls should be treated with less respect than males or that a woman’s role is subservient to that of a man – or vice versa;
- suggests that same-sex marriages or civil partnerships should not be recognized as being lawful unions under civil law.”
And, naturally, “Inspectors will take this guidance into account when reporting to the Secretary of State on the extent to which the independent school standards are being met, or are likely to be met, in relation to an independent school.
“The department would also take it into account, when taking decisions about regulatory or enforcement action on individual schools.”
According to a Jan. 16, 2019 report by the Institute for Jewish Policy Research (JPR), out of 34,547 Jewish children studying in Jewish schools in the academic year 2017/18, 58% are in “strictly Orthodox schools,” meaning largely Haredi. That’s roughly 20,000 Haredi students. How do you teach them in underground schools?
The other option is home schooling, which, unlike in the US, is not exactly encouraged by the government. One’s local council can make an “informal inquiry” to check if one’s child is getting a “suitable education” at home. They can serve a school attendance order if they think the child needs to be taken away to an approved school.
Rabbi Anthony Adler, who owns and runs the independent Beis Soroh Schneirer for girls in Hendon, north London, told the Guardian: “We teach our children British values such as the rule of law, mutual respect and tolerance, but we will not spell out alternative lifestyles. We want to preserve their innocence and purity.”
Shraga Stern said his other option is leaving the country. He’d do better in New York, where the law regarding schools’ core curriculum has just been amended to keep the state out of yeshivas. Israel would be a valid choice – depending on whether the Haredim make it into Netanyahu’s next coalition government.
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