Keshet UK is disappointed that the headteacher of JFS School has declined the request of LGBT alumni to meet with the school (letters to and from the school are reproduced below)
Dave Shaw, Co-Convenor of Keshet UK and an ex-JFS pupil, said: “We are pleased to hear from the headteacher that the school is currently conducting a review of “the school’s approach to the topic of homosexuality. We firmly believe that as a state-funded school, JFS, like all Jewish schools, must be able to demonstrate that it meets its statutory obligation to be proactive in preventing bullying on the basis of sexuality and create an environment where all students feel included.”
Keshet UK is now preparing a submission to help with our recommendations to inform JFS’s internal review. As February is LGBT History Month, Keshet UK will be delivering teacher’s packs for every teacher at the school and we hope that this will be a valuable resource that the school will make use of.
Finally Keshet UK will also be reaching out to all Jewish secondary schools to understand how they are proactive in preventing homophobic and transphobic bullying and create an environment where all students feel included.
Keshet UK is to make an ‘It Gets Better Video’ on the 5th February for more information or to find out how you can get involved in our work please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Letter to JFS from LGBT Alumni
23rd January 2012
Letter from JFS to LGBT Alumni
Dear Mr Shaw
Thank you for your original email of 23 January and your subsequent email of 30 January, which I received today.
Yours was one of a number of letters I received following the publication of the Jewish Chronicle on Friday 20 January. Some of these have been critical of the School but many have been critical of the newspaper article. Both current students and alumni are distressed and angry at what was said about JFS.
As you recognise in your first email, there are indeed differing reports of the lesson that was highlighted by the Jewish Chronicle. The facts are that the Jewish Chronicle article was seriously flawed and I have been misquoted. This has itself led some correspondants to be upset by what it was alleged I said, rather than the reality at JFS today.
We believe it is appropriate, in a Jewish School, to ensure that students have the opportunity of considering important topics during their Jewish Studies lessons and we do not shirk from our responsibility of addressing these matters in an open forum. These lessons, as alumni will recall, feature lively discussion and debate.
We also believe it is appropriate to explore such topics via Health Education Seminars - not mentioned by the Jewish Chronicle - organised in conjunction with external organisations such as the Jewish Aids Trust, JAT. We also have a Student Welfare Officer who is available, on a confidential basis, for all students - and I know that students grappling with issues of their own sexuality have approached her to discuss this subject. I mention this to try and demonstrate that matters are not as one-dimensional as presented.
There are doubtless students who, unfortunately, have unhappy memories of their time at JFS for a variety of different reasons. For some adolescents grappling with their sexuality is challenging in any environment. Clearly my wish is that all students remember JFS with fondness and affection irrespective of any personal challenges they face and I continue to work to ensure that JFS is a welcoming and positive environment for all our students. I will be reviewing our approach to the topic of homosexuality at the School in the light of recent events. The perspectives I have read in all the recent correspondance will be helpful in that regard. I am going to decline your offer to meet but, if you wish to write with further thoughts, your views will be respected and considered fully. I hope that this review will benefit our approach, without the division and discord which has been the main result of the article so far.