UK Hasidic school faced with closure for not teaching LGBT

Girls’ elementary school fails three inspections despite being praised for ‘inspiring pupils with enthusiasm’

Illustrative image of ultra-Orthodox Jewish girls studying at a Ultra Orthodox Jewish Girls school in Jerusalem, on September 2, 2014. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Illustrative image of ultra-Orthodox Jewish girls studying at a Ultra Orthodox Jewish Girls school in Jerusalem, on September 2, 2014. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

An ultra-Orthodox girls’ elementary school in London may be forced to close after failing to meet government standards because it does not teach about homosexuality and transgender issues.

The Vishnitz Girls School, a private elementary school in the London suburb of Stamford Hill, failed three consecutive inspections from UK’s Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted) according to a report released last month. Although the school received a positive review in almost every area, it failed the inspection because “they do not teach pupils about all the protected characteristics, particularly those relating to gender re-assignment and sexual orientation.”

The school, which has 212 pupils aged between three and eight years old, was rated as “good” by inspectors four years ago. But now the government may force it to close down.

According to the Ofsted report the religious values of the school mean it cannot comply with government requirements. “The proprietor and leaders agreed that the school’s policy on the protected characteristics meant that the school could not meet these standards,” the report stated.

“The school’s approach means that pupils are shielded from learning about certain differences between people, such as sexual orientation,” inspectors wrote. “This means that pupils have a limited understanding of the different lifestyles and partnerships that individuals may choose in present-day society.”

Inspectors said that the school, which caters to the local Vizhnitz hasidic community, covers “all the required areas of learning for the proposed increase in age range, from three to eight years to three to 12 years.”

Ofsted also acknowledged that the school showed tolerance to other cultures and value systems. “The school’s culture is, however, clearly focused on teaching pupils to respect everybody, regardless of beliefs and lifestyle,” the report said.

Staff were praised in the report, which stated that “teachers’ good subject knowledge and high-quality classroom resources inspire pupils with enthusiasm for learning and to achieve well.”

Yet because of its failure to teach about different sexual orientations the school was threatened with closure.

Hasidic Jews try to shield themselves in many ways from modern cultures which they feel contradict the religious lifestyle they have chosen for themselves. Inspectors noted that “most girls speak Yiddish as their first language.”

The ultra-Orthodox community is known for strict gender separation in public events and extremely high standards of modest dress. Members of the community are urged to shun the internet and smart phones, and any discussion of sexuality is left to the family, rather than to the school.

Orthodox Jews consider homosexuality and transgenderism to be forbidden by Jewish law.

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