Letter: Misunderstandings in a Hackney school

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Sir: I join with Ruth Picardie ('Two women of Hackney', 3 February) in condemning the disgraceful homophobic onslaught on Kingsmead head, Jane Brown, by sections of the tabloid press. It is unfortunate that virtually no section of the media has reported my own and Hackney Council's repeated condemnation of these attacks. I can empathise with how she must feel, having received racist hate mail and death threats myself in the past fortnight.

However, Ms Picardie's article is marred by some misunderstandings. First, Jane Brown has not been 'prohibited from making any public statement' or 'silenced'. She can speak to whomsoever she wants, including the media. The council's Code of Conduct does not 'silence' employees; it simply states the procedures to be followed if staff wish to speak to the media.

Second, her apology is her own.

Third, the list of reasons Jane Brown had for turning down the Romeo and Juliet project, to which the article adds, grows by the day. However, these were not among the reasons she gave to me, nor, as she now admits, was any reason given to the Royal Opera House other than the failure of Romeo and Juliet to portray other forms of human sexuality.

Finally, it is not true that 'no one batted an eyelid until 20 January' (when the story appeared in the Evening Standard). The music adviser took the matter up with the school but, unfortunately, the situation was not brought to my attention at that time. The major issues it raised, therefore, were not addressed at a higher level.

It is ironic that homophobic media coverage and Hackney Teachers Association have tried to turn the issue into 'campaigns' around Jane Brown's sexual orientation rather than allow proper consideration of the real issues I have addressed in my inquiry: the actual reasons for Ms Brown's original decision not to allow Kingsmead pupils and their families to take part in the Royal Opera House project, and a possible conflict of interest and an unfair advantage at the time of her appointment.

Yours faithfully,

GUS JOHN

Director of Education & Leisure

London Borough of Hackney

London, N1

4 February

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