A school faces a backlash today (Tues) after apologising to a Christian teaching assistant who was disciplined for telling a pupil that same sex marriage was wrong.
Vicky Allen, 51, took legal action to overturn a formal written warning and to seek damages for ‘hurt feelings’ after telling the teen she disapproved of gay ceremonies.
She also told the 14-year-old autistic teenager at Brannel School that she did not like the way the biblical rainbow symbol had been adopted as an emblem of gay pride.
The widow, who has three children and joined the school in 2011, appeared at Bodmin Magistrates Court for the start of a three day hearing yesterday. (Monday).
But after lengthy discussions in private between solicitors, the claimant and the respondent, an employment judge demanded people clear the courts after a settlement was reached.
No details of any compensation were released but afterwards the head teacher Andy Edmonds apologised to Vicky.
In a statement released afterwards he said he “‘recognised Victoria Allen’s right to share her Christian beliefs with students and has apologised for any upset that Victoria Allen may have felt during the disciplinary process.”
Her comments were understood to have been made during an English lesson at the co-educational secondary in Cornwall in September, which she claims was in direct response to a question from the boy.
Vicky revealed the warning, which would have stayed on her file for 12 months, was given to her for “acting in opposition to the school’s expectations with regards to equal opportunities.”
The school also confirmed in its statement that she will continue to work as a high-level teaching assistant there.
Speaking outside court before the civil proceedings got underway, Vicky, of Foxhole, Cornwall, revealed she wants compensation for injury to feelings as she felt like she has been treated like a criminal.
She said: “I was asked a question from a student and I gave my answer based on my beliefs and I was disciplined for it.
“I was not suspended – I was given a written warning. I was intimidated, not motivated. I felt like a criminal and I didn’t do anything wrong.
“I was accused of giving my opinion on my biblical beliefs, I guess.
“I said I didn’t believe it was right for same sex marriage based on my beliefs.
“The rainbow sign is God’s promise that he wouldn’t flood the world again. I said I didn’t agree with the pope.
“If a child asks for my personal opinion I feel I should give it.
“I want an apology and the written warning to be removed from my records as well as financial compensation.”
Vicky confirmed she still works at the school and when asked what the school thought about her taking it to court, she said: “I don’t know.”
She was accompanied on her way into court by Libby Powell, from the Christian Legal Centre, who were supporting her throughout the case.
She said: “The principle for her [Miss Allen] is that she didn’t do anything wrong by talking about her Christian faith when asked the question.
“As she said herself, this investigation and the disciplinary process made her feel like a criminal, she felt isolated, she lost her morale at work, she didn’t know who she could talk to and about what, she really did face a lot of, shall we say, injury to feelings when she was going through this whole process.”
She added: “We are dealing with this every week – week in, week out – we are getting calls from Christians from a variety of different situations. Christians who finding difficulties because they’ve spoken up, taken a certain action, not done a certain thing because of their Christian faith. We’re busier than ever.
“Vicky’s message is very clear, she is taking a stand because she doesn’t want other Christians to be in the same position.
“Many of the people we have supported have taken the position on same-sex marriage that it’s not biblical, it’s not what God says is the best way for humans to flourish.
“That’s our position, that’s why we stand with Christians.
“What we’re saying is, the best way for society to flourish, the best way for men and women to live in a relationship with each other, is God’s way of marriage.”
The joint statement in full signed by Victoria Allen and school head Andy Edmonds: “Victoria Allen and the Governing Body of Brannel School are pleased to announce that the employment dispute between Victoria Allen and Brannel School is now concluded.
“The parties accept that some people have deeply held views about the nature of marriage, and that every individual has the freedom to express these in accordance with the law. The school also respects that Victoria Allen’s view that marriage should be between a man and a woman is sincerely held and shared by many others.
“Andy Edmonds, the Head teacher, has recognised Victoria Allen’s right to share her Christian beliefs with students and has apologised for any upset that Victoria Allen may have felt during the disciplinary process.
“Victoria Allen has accepted that it is reasonable for the school to request that staff share balanced views with students when asked questions of their personal beliefs and opinion under the requirements of equalities legislation including the Equality Act 2010 and the Education Act 1996.
“The parties uphold the rights and freedoms of other members of society based on the principles of a democratic society.
“Both parties reaffirm their commitment to the long-standing British values of freedom of religion, freedom of speech and freedom of association with mutual respect for the dignity and rights and freedoms of others, including the right of Victoria Allen to express her views.
“Both parties are happy to work with each other going forward to secure a continuing healthy working environment in the school.”