Letter: Hackney is not homophobic

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The Independent Online
THE disgraceful homophobic onslaught on Jane Brown, the Kingsmead headteacher, by sections of the tabloid press is one I join with Nick Cohen in condemning ('The making of a Hackney martyr', 30 January).

It is unfortunate that virtually no one has reported my own and Hackney Council's repeated public condemnation of these attacks. An unscrupulous campaign has now been launched accusing the council of assisting the homophobic hounding of Jane Brown.

First, it is not true that nothing was done when the Hamlyn Foundation wrote to the borough's music adviser in October expressing its concern at the reason Jane Brown had given for turning down Romeo and Juliet. The music adviser took the matter up with the school but did not refer the letter to Ms Brown's manager. The major issues raised, therefore, were not addressed at a higher level.

Second, it is a lie that Hackney Council leaked the name of the headteacher. The release of this information was forced by a Liberal Democrat councillor using his legal right to demand information from council officers.

Third, Jane Brown's apology is her own. If she has since changed her mind, the parents at Kingsmead should be the first to know. Fourth, the idea that the story would have gone away if Hackney Council had not responded shows how out of touch with reality some of Ms Brown's supporters are. The council press office's telephones were jammed from the moment the story broke. Nearly 400 separate inquiries followed in the next few days. Does anyone seriously think the story was carried across the world because of anything Hackney Council did?

Those who rightly abhor the homophobic tabloid attacks on Ms Brown should also ask why it was that Hackney Teachers' Association announced her lesbianism in a press release just as the media attention was beginning to die down. Despite the media onslaught, Hackney Council and I have repected her wishes that this was a personal matter which she wanted to be kept confidential.

It is ironic that the homophobic media coverage and Hackney Teachers' Association have tried to turn the issue into 'campaigns' around Jane Brown's sexual orientation. The real issues are her actual reasons for not allowing Kingsmead pupils and their families to take part in the Royal Opera House project, and a possible conflict of interest at the time of her appointment.

Gus John

Director of Education

London Borough of Hackney