Transgender writer blasts Brownedge St Mary’s High School

Award winning transgender author Juno Dawson has pledged to hold a public event in Preston after a local high school cancelled her planned visit last week.

Juno Dawson, formerly James Dawson, was due to visit Brownedge St Mary’s Catholic High School at Bamber Bridge in a visit linked to the promotion of her new book “Margot and Me”.

Juno was given just 48 hours notice of the change of plans and expressed her anger via Twitter saying: “I just don’t think we should agree politely to discrimination. While I sympathise with the staff the school has offered no logical explanation as to why they cancelled at short notice.”
She also tweeted:“It’s sad for the pupils and vast majority of staff at the school that a small number of people were able to block the visit” and later promised: “I’ll do everything I can to do a public event in Preston ASAP.”

But the school has denied discrimination and said it was merely postponing the visit .

Head teacher Martin Reynolds issued a statement defending the school’s reputation. The Post school is now closed for half term and the Post was unable to contact him. But he had told online site BuzzFeed News:“I asked for the visit to be postponed to a later date not cancelled. The postponement of Juno’s visit was not due to the fact that Juno Dawson is transgender. We would never discriminate against any individual on the grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity as we teach our children that each individual person is precious and unique.”

The headmaster continued: “A representative said she felt the subject matter meant that a visit was inappropriate at this time because we wanted a proper context for it so that our younger students could get more value out of it. We wanted more time to do this theme justice for our younger students…..We would like to invite Juno into our school later this year when we can make maximum educational impact for all of our children.”

The author’s visit had been arranged through Lancashire based Silverwood Events. Silverwood consultant Jason Hope, told Juno about the cancellation and spoke to school staff. He said : “They did cancel very much at short notice and they did mention it was due to content, other than that I’ve got very little detail about the decision.”

He added that had tried to find a way to make the visit work, but it was not possible: “Certainly having spoke to the school I don’t think they are averse to a visit from Juno … for whatever reason it didn’t fit with their plans at this time. Juno’s initial reaction was very much she was being discriminated against. I don’t think that’s the case.”

He said the school knew Juno as a transsexual author and the school management team had agreed to the visit:”I work with Brownedge St Mary’s a lot and I think they have a very active programme in trying ton promote equality and diversity and they do a lot of work with Stonewall (the charity which campaigns for the equality of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people). I think they’re a school that does care and does positively take action. It’s a real shame it’s blown up in this way.”

He added: “I was in contact with Juno over the weekend and I think Juno feels understandably that she was expected at the school and there were people looking forward to her visit and that hasn’t gone ahead .I think she feels she’s been in a position where she’s let people down because of that.”

Juno’s publishers Hot Key Books of London said Juno, who gives talks to schools as part of the charity Stonewall’s School Role Model programme, did not wish to comment further. She had already described the school’s response as “backpeddling” and said she had first felt “personally attacked” and then felt angry.

The planned visit would have seen the author discussing her new book and its historical context, including the role of women in the 20th century.

It is understood the visit was well publicised with letters to parents, posters in the library, and a (now deleted) welcome tweet from the school’s official Twitter account.

The school had previously welcomed actor and campaigner Sir Ian McKellen and Mr Reynolds said: “We are a Stonewall Champion School of three years standing because of the way we combat homophobia in society and in schools.”

Brownedge St. Mary’s has been praised for its work on LGBT issues and anti-bullying measures, and stresses it is against discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity.

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