World

Orthodox Jewish grade school in UK fails inspection for refusal to teach about sexual orientation

Elizabeth Llorente

An orthodox Jewish girls’ elementary school in London has failed a government inspection for the third time because it refuses to teach students, who range in age from 3 to 8, about homosexuality and gender reassignment.

While the Vishnitz Girls School implemented several recommendations made by the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills, or Ofsted, during the first two inspections, it refused to abide by Ofsted’s requirement that students be taught about sexual orientation and gender reassignment.

That led to a third failed inspection. An Ofsted report found that Vishnitz violated the Equality Act 2010 because it “shielded from learning about certain differences between people, such as sexual orientation.”

Ofsted officials told Fox News that the decision about what do to next is up to the Department of Education, which requested the inspections. One option is that the agency can close the school, according to published reports.

“The standards require all independent schools to actively promote fundamental British values and equalities, including respect for those with different faiths and beliefs,” Ofsted said in a statement. “Ofsted inspects rigorously and impartially.”

“Inspectors visited the school for the third time in May and found that, while it has made some progress, it is still not paying enough regard to developing pupils’ tolerance and understanding of people with protected characteristics, as set out in the 2010 Equality Act,” the statement continued. “These standards are enshrined in law. Schools cannot choose which parts of the legislation they comply with. Parents have the right to expect an education for their child that conforms to their religious beliefs, as long as it is in compliance with the law.”

The standards require all independent schools to actively promote fundamental British values and equalities...Schools cannot choose which parts of the legislation they comply with.

- Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills

Vishnitz officials told Fox News that they are proud of their school and that children are being well-served.

“It’s not something that we’re embarrassed about,” said a Vishnitz official who asked to be identified only as the head of the Early Years Unit. “We’re doing well for the children. The children are learning, they’re thriving, the care is well. We’re getting lots of support.”

The Ofsted report of the third inspection acknowledged that Vishnitz had made improvements in other areas cited as weak after the two prior evaluations.

The report noted that the students “are well motivated, have positive attitudes to learning and are confident in thinking for themselves.”

The Jerusalem Post said that the Vishnitz school is one of seven private ones that have failed Ofsted inspections in the last few weeks. It is unclear why the other schools failed the inspections.

Last year, an Islamic school for girls in Nottingham was ordered to shut down after an inspection by Ofsted found it did not adequately address a culture of bullying and that it promoted ideas that were anti-gay and that condoned aggression toward women.

Vishnitz’s negative inspection results have fueled a debate about where to draw the line in trying to promote tolerance while respecting religious beliefs, such as the belief espoused in parts of the Bible that homosexual activity is sinful.

There are just two options – protect the right of individuals to live and raise their children in accordance with their faith, or make a mockery of the Equality Act by closing schools that fail to comply with your LGBT agenda.

- Gill Robins, educator and blogger

Neil Levitan, director of programs at Jewish LGBT charity KeshetUK, told The Jerusalem Post, “We know that young people of faith are more likely to have tried to take their own life than those that aren’t, and that pupils in faith schools are more likely than those in nonfaith schools to say that teachers and school staff never challenge homophobic, biophobic and transphobic language when they hear it.”

“[E]very Jewish institution, particularly those working with young people such as schools, needs to find a way to ensure young LGBT+ people feel safe and loved,” Levitan said, “to keep them safe from harm and ultimately to create a world where no one has to choose between their Jewish and LGBT+ identities.”

But in a blog on the site by Christians in Education, educator Gill Robins said that while supposedly trying to promote tolerance, education officials in English were being intolerant of religious views that were in conflict with theirs.

“Ofsted has revealed its true agenda,” Robins wrote. “It doesn’t matter how good your school is in all other respects –simply refusing to teach very young children about gender reassignment will lead to your closure. That is the possible outcome for not only this school, but other Jewish schools which refuse, as a matter of faith, to teach about LGBT issues.”

“There are just two options – protect the right of individuals to live and raise their children in accordance with their faith,” Robins wrote, “or make a mockery of the Equality Act by closing schools that fail to comply with your LGBT agenda.”

Elizabeth Llorente is Senior Reporter for FoxNews.com, and can be reached at Elizabeth.Llorente@Foxnews.com. Follow her on Twitter @Liz_Llorente.