21 July, 2019

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Colombo International School Violates Fundamental Rights Of A Pupil 

Colombo International School and its principal have come under fire for mistreating a child 

A pupil at Colombo International School, founded by veteran educator Elizabeth Moir, and one of Sri Lanka’s leading international schools, is currently undergoing the most problematic violation of their fundamental rights. 

The pupil [in line with our journalistic ethics, The Colombo Telegraph refrains from mentioning the name of the underage child, also in an effort to respect the privacy of the child and their family] had expressed an interest in using a rainbow flag as part of their outfit for a fashion show. The principal, Sarah Philipps, a British woman, had then told the pupil that this was not allowed. The child had then complied by wearing the rainbow flag as a simple tie and dye cape. She had then come to school covering her bag in a rainbow flag. 

The letter written by the principal, Sarah Philipps, to the child’s parents [which we produce in full here with the child’s name redacted], is a letter of the utmost shame. The principal, in 2018, and in a school in the South Asian region where the regional superpower’s top-most Court repealed anti-LGBT+ legislation imposed by the British during the Victorian era, continues to impose Victorian British values on a brown-skinned Sri Lankan child. 

The behaviour of Philipps is highly unethical, and involves a violation of the fundamental rights of the child.

“In which century does the CIS Principal live?” Asked Uvindu Kurukulasuriya, the Editor-in-Chief of the Colombo Telegraph. “This is highly unethical and patronising. The rainbow flag is a flag that the world has recognised as one that symbolises fundamental rights and equality. Sri Lanka is not a British colony anymore. It totally baffles me to see that a British woman still assumes that she can live and work in Sri Lanka and violate the fundamental rights of a Sri Lankan LGBT+ child. It is all the more surprising because LGBT+ child-friendly policies are followed in many schools across the UK today. The child had every right to have the rainbow flag included in whatever way they wished in their fashion show outfit, or in covering their schoolbag. The Colombo Telegraph is happy to provide our fullest support to the child and their family in their efforts to ensure that justice prevails in the child’s favour,” Kurukulasuriya further added. 

Many Sri Lankan nationals, especially human rights advocates, expressed great dismay at the way the child had been treated at one of Colombo’s leading international schools. 

Thiagaraja Warathas, a lecturer in International Politics at the University of Colombo, the co-founder of Chathra, a leading LGBT+ rights advocacy group in Colombo, a co-founder of the Community Welfare Development Fund, noted: 

“The actions taken by the school principal is highly homophobic. Altogether, costume of a fashion design contest is at the discretion of the contestant or the designer which cannot be censored by the principal. On the other hand Cooperatives too use rainbow flag. So do we expect principal to ban everything related to rainbows?

The most derogatory and inhuman actions taken by the principal is deducting marks and excluding student from all the activities which for me is violation of fundamental rights of the student.”

Warathas, who is also a leading educator and currently completing his PhD at the University of Bath, where he is a Commonwealth Scholar, further added “I would never ever send my kids to a homophobic school. This Principal should be held accountable for her actions and a proper official level inquiry should be called against principal for violating the rights of expression and right to education of the student”. 

“This is beyond pathetic”, noted academic, author and international LGBT+ rights advocate Dr Chamindra Weerawardhana, who delivered Sri Lanka’s first-ever inaugural annual Pride Speech in Colombo in May 2018. 

“The child should never have been treated in this way. This child did something important, by taking a symbol of equality, justice, tolerance and love to their school. The principal and staff should have been happy of what the child did. They should have stood resolutely with the child and their rights. Across the developed world, child-friendly guidelines are being put in place, with the objective of ensuring the rights of children across the broadly-defined LGBT+ spectrum. As a non-cisnormative and non-heteronormative woman and a mother of two young children, I constantly deal with a school, where neither me nor my children, nor other LGBT+ children face this kind of treatment. And this, I reiterate is in the United Kingdom. The principal, a British woman with degrees from the University of Bath, should have known better. The decent thing for Ms Philipps to do is to apologise to the child and their parents, allow the child to bring the rainbow flag to school, and launch an awareness raising programme on – to use the United Nations abbreviation –  Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity/Expression, and Sex-Characteristics [SOGIESC]-related issues in the school. As an experienced educator, I will be personally prepared to help out in rolling out such an initiative if needed,” Dr Weerawardhana further added. 

“The LGBT+ community of Sri Lanka includes many senior politicians, judges, outstanding lawyers, journalists and diplomats. In the current climate of mobilisation for fundamental rights in the aftermath of the Indian Supreme Court’s decision to repeal Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, our LGBT+ community and lawyers are unlikely to leave Ms Philipps and the CIS management alone unless they take prompt action in the right direction,” Dr Weerawardhana cautioned. 

A broad dialogue is currently developing in Sri Lanka in favour of the rights of LGBT+ Sri Lankans. This involves efforts to call upon authorities to repeal sections 365 and 365a of the Penal Code, which are used by law enforcement to violate the fundamental rights of Sri Lankan citizens on the basis of their sexual orientation. This conversation also imperatively requires a focus on children and young people in the LGBT+ spectrum. Schools need to be issued child-friendly and fundamental rights-focused guidelines on ensuring equality to all pupils. (By Shamila Rathnayake)

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Latest comments

  • 4
    0

    I promise this was unlikely the fault or decision of the ‘British woman’ you mention. There are other Sri Lankan decision makers (SL nationals) at play at this school….trust me!!

    • 2
      2

      Dear Analyst,
      .
      This letter had to come from the Acting Principal. I believe the virtual owner of this school is Armyne Wirasinha. It is profit-making. Studies good, with lots of pressure on teachers. Discipline lax. Most of the Bond Scam Kids (only Arjuna Aloysius locked up, but others supposedly involved) were from here. The British School, in that sense is better. Owned by “Universal Manikku”. For recent politics of the Maldives see:
      .
      https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/nasheed-requests-sri-lankan-government-to-engage-robustly-in-transition-of-power/
      .
      Armyn and daughter are always around, but invisible; Mannikku never sights the school. In both places, the British Head runs the school – with no interference in the case of the British School.
      .
      The current Anglican Bishop of Colombo, uncertain that he can control schools headed by Educationists, has adopted the practice of having his trusted vassals, the priests, heading all the Boy’s schools. He could find nobody suitable for Trinity College, Kandy, and trusted no Sri Lankan layman. So, Andrew Fowler Watts, who had first been Principal of CIS, and later Principal of BSC before heading a school in Bunei, was installed at Trinity two years ago.
      .
      Is it any wonder , then, that some of the products of these schools would love Sri Lanka to be a colony of Great Britain again?
      .

  • 45
    46

    The school did the right thing here. If you let the child carry her flag, then she will demand more. Not only her, but others… bathrooms, locker rooms, and even incorporating LGBT into the school curriculum. It could be the girl was even set up, what does an underage child know about LGBT?

    • 14
      9

      xD Why wouldn’t an underage know about LGBT? And supposing the child didn’t know what LGBT is, what’s wrong with showing it to the world? Too homophobic for you?

      • 3
        0

        Well if showing “what lgbt is” to the world is not wrong, how is being homophobic in any way not proper??

    • 10
      5

      What do you know about the child? Your ignorance is pathetic. So full of homophobia and transphobia that you don’t see that we are talking about a human being. So what if more rights and facilities are given to LGBT+ children? Does that take anything away from you? Don’t come around spewing hatred because it will come after you, mate.

    • 5
      5

      I agree with you Lester. There are certain rules which a school runs by and bringing a flag and wrapping your bag with it can be considered a violation of school uniform.

      The activists are always looking for an opportunity to sue someone demanding that their rights were violated. The school would have taken the same course of action if any one (yes anyone) brought any flag (Sri Lankan, British, US, whatever) and wrapped their bag.

    • 3
      5

      Are you for real? Do you know what lgbt even is? Get your act together. I have multiple friends who are apart of the lgbt community. Most aren’t even 18 yet and they are proud of it. What do you have to be proud about? The few likes you got on a homophobic comment? Being gay doesn’t mean she did anything wrong. Child or not, she is her own person and has her own right to choose her sexuality. It’s narrow minded people like you who keep this beautiful country from progressing. It’s sad to see Sri Lanka, my motherland, produced such people.

  • 9
    11

    Make Sri Lanka Gay again. That is what the US was trying to do with Obama the way their Embassy people behaved. Now USA has returned to its Christian roots. No more Gay marriage. It will be overturned soon. No gay march in Colombo sponsored by US Embassy. No Gay Deputies enjoying Horton place and lots of Tamil servants any more..No visas to come to US for Gay partners unless they are already married. Not a single gay in Trump Cabinet. No talk about gay rights.

    • 3
      5

      Thangamma, what do you think happened at Sigiriya of yore. You think that the ‘frescoes” were drawn for fun? That was a symbol for the people to masturbate.You think that there was no homosexuality at Sigiriya or for that matter in temples?

  • 8
    5

    All things said and done, no one has cared to put himself. In the shoes of this girl and ask the question why is she doing what she is doing?
    We all talk about LGBT without actually understanding the implication of the concept.
    Over the years modern man come to realize that not all males or females are oriented in the way how they feel about themselves. It is quite glaring that this is an inborn thing that cannot be suppressed, hence the declaration of LGBT rights.
    We as a modern society empathize with human beings with such issues and recognize them and appreciate them for who they are. Everyone has a right to self-realization in dignity and equity. Buddhism teaches us to be empathetic and not judge anyone too.
    Anyway in the case of this girl, one thing is quite clear, she may not feel like a girl inside, hence she wears trousers, in this day and age I don’t see any issue with that.
    Furthermore she probably wants to feel comfortable with herself hence the flag, I don’t see anything wrong with that either, particularly when it was worn on her bag. She has not assault, bullied, molested or harmed anyone. What is her crime?
    The school of all institutions should know how to protect and nurture such a vulnerable young child, it is a private and highly respected upscale school.
    They should not behave like the narrow minded ‘godae’ schools.
    Sorry Sarah Philips you too have fallen on the ‘godae’ path. You are better than this you know it. Stop playing to the gallery. Perhaps you have spent too much time in Sri Lanka. The earlier you snap out of your narrow minded track the better it would be for the school. Don’t be pressured by bigoted parents who want to use every avenue to feed their fragile egos at the expense of innocent children.

  • 12
    2

    This is purely one sided and not remotely objective. CT, do you have any idea on how to write an article? Its’s sad to see any random person picking up a pen and paper and peddling their opinions as “news” is considered “journalism” these days. Misinformation like this does more harm than good.

    At least this heaping pile of biased nonsense at least allows us to determine one thing for sure: This clearly isn’t the full story.

  • 14
    8

    This is undoubtedly a set up by LGBT grownups. It’s an absolute shame that a child is used to propagate adult sex preferences. What’s the world (SL) coming to!

    Who ever is responsible for this despicable act, please keep this type of activity at an appropriate level. Shame on you. Poor child.

    Most right thinking people with support the stance taken by Sarah Philips.

    Well done Madam. Keep going. Congratulations on your stance.

  • 6
    9

    I was in CIS and was bullied very heavily by the “classmates”, it was generally a very complicated school to fit into. There was no assistance given by the teachers or fellow students though help was asked. The only right a few of us wanted was not to be hit across the face and shouted at in foul language. So pardon me if I don’t partake in this nonsense. People who don’t understand the reality making a huge deal out of a rainbow flag as if it’s life threatening. Btw you shouldn’t wear trousers if you don’t need to undo the zipper. That’s why they were made for guys. Like duh right?

    • 0
      0

      Dear “White chocolate”,
      .
      I think that I understand.
      .
      You’ve been independent in a more meaningful way.
      .
      I am repelled by LGBT; that’s only a personal feeling. However, in line with changed thinking on the subject, I welcome the greater tolerance for those who are different. But it can go too far.
      .
      The pedophile scandals that seem to spill on to the media on an almost daily basis testify to the fact that there was plenty of victimisation going on in earlier times; we’ve got to be glad that such things are diminishing. Consenting adults is now regarded as fine. I’d add that if consenting kids were left to themselves (which really this article seems to be advocating), there can be a case for that too.
      .
      Exploitation of kids by adults is obviously wrong. Isn’t there some danger of that with LGBTQ?
      .
      Similarly, I’m glad that “White chocolate” stood his ground.
      .
      Chathura and wannihamy also make the valid point that there are more important things to be discussed regarding schools and society.
      .

  • 21
    7

    I think school did the right thing. There r rules to follow as per the school guidelines which is to follow the instructions otherwise we cannot create a disciplined future generation .

    • 2
      3

      What are we talking about,.All monasterial institutions has gay people.In fact uit is their credence.Be it buddhist Temple or Catholic hostel this is there and practised.
      Let us not be humbugs.

  • 27
    5

    The problem here isn’t the fact that she is lgbt, the problem is that she broke school rules for an extended period of time and tried to make a statement regarding sexuality in a school environment. School is not a place for you to show your sexual orientation, it is a place for learning and descpline, whether it be private or government. There are children from the age of 12 attending the school fashion show and at that age you really don’t know how the world works, and are not mature enough to truly understand what sex even is. So a school must understand this and set rules to restrict overly influential behaviors,it was completely correct for the school to take such an action towards her regarding this matter. If you believe this is a human rights violation, are you suggesting that we allow children to start having sexual relations in school? Obviously not. I heard about this a few days ago from a friend who’s learning at CIS, and she says confidently say that school shall penalize any form of sexual expression during school hours or events whether it be hetro or lgbt. School cannot be blamed for a students lack of compliance, this is simply one of the steps to be taken in the disciplinary process.

  • 12
    3

    The problem here isn’t the fact that she is lgbt, the problem is that she broke school rules for an extended period of time and tried to make a statement regarding sexuality in a school environment. School is not a place for you to show your sexual orientation, it is a place for learning and descpline, whether it be private or government. There are children from the age of 12 attending the school fashion show and at that age you really don’t know how the world works, and are not mature enough to truly understand what sex even is. So it was completely correct for school to take such an action towards her regarding this matter.

  • 6
    8

    “She will demand more” like what? Basic human respect and dignity shown towards her? Also, I wonder if you hear yourself when you say things such as “could be the girl was even set up” as if this situation is suddenly one big conspiracy theory that has been orchestrated to push an agenda, and completely overlooking the fact that you are blaming the victim here. It is every individuals fundamental right to be protected from discrimination, especially institutional oppression that suppresses the freedom of expression of our youth. In a country where we have had well-documented histories of discriminating people for their various religions, ethnicities and so forth; it’s about time that we work towards a progressive future instead of repeatedly making the same mistakes.

  • 1
    7

    To say the least, sadly, just the sight of this sub-leader of locally situated School is an irritant that is seen as a vestige of colonialism and oppression. Wonder whether there is adequate controls by the state to ensure that the school complies with the cultural requirements of the Country. Foreign Teachers and leaders should be allowed only if they cannot be found locally.

  • 14
    3

    CT is bias in the presentation of this article.
    Schools should have the right to enforce their own rules and regulations according to their beliefs.
    If parents want to encourage same sex tendencies in their children they should send their children to such schools.
    But is it fair by the (underage) children?
    If adults are pushing them (children) towards same sex relation ships!!!!!

  • 10
    6

    “The child should never have been treated in this way. This child did something important, by taking a symbol of equality, justice, tolerance and love to their school. “

    Children are not activists. If they want to be activists then leave the school and do it. This is a private school so it’s free to impose whatever rules they wish. Don’t like it then leave the school.

    “The principal, a British woman with degrees from the University of Bath, should have known better…..”

    I think she knows better. Better than most so called experts here. That’s why she simply followed the school’s guidelines. You don’t need a degree to understand that. Wannabe Lankan experts can calm down now.

  • 12
    2

    If the school has a dress code and students are required to wear it when they join the school they agree to abide by all rules of the school. If so I think there is no issue in the action taken by the principal. If the student has broken rules and all of you are crying foul that is not fundamental rights. Thats freedom of the jackass just like what had happened in the last 3 years to this country. No institution or country can operate with everyone wanting freedom of the ass.

  • 10
    5

    I’ve been going through these comments and I should say that Sri Lankans could care less for the value of self expression if hit them in the face.

    Education was never about conformity. It has always been about learning new things, especially that outside social constraints. Its a manner of defining freedom for yourself. Guess that’s another thing Sri Lankans are yet to understand little alone appriciate.

    Who you are is not up for anyone to define for you. How you are is up to you to decide. This girl was brave enough to appriciate this value and to apply it to her life.

    Unfortunately the so called adults were never born to such privileged circumstances. All they know is what everyone else has been saying about them…. this is just sad.

    • 0
      0

      I couldn’t agree with you more.

  • 1
    0

    The Liberals in the US are mostly LGBT and abortion supporters. They, like the GMOA, university students, many others are virulent supporters of the Left, and are against the very core of the rational, family foundation and the Civil Code of Conduct. This young child has been extremely offensive when corrected and THAT is why she was disciplined by the school. Today in Sri Lanka and the United States civil disorder and rioting is rampant. You saw that and continue to see on streets in both these hitherto great nations and will continue to see.

    “Spare the rod and spoil the child”.

  • 1
    0

    I do not expect this comment be published but let me express my appreciation for your remedial action to erase the name of the kid which was not masked earlier in the title of the letter, perhaps after my earlier comment pointing out the same, which you exercised your right not to publish.

  • 1
    1

    Let me honest by saying my support is for the rights of LGBT+ and society needs to evolve to treat them equally, fairly and respect their feelings and emotions and not for schools to fix a gender based uniform in this day and age. All parents who opposing are only building a culture bullying such people and planting the seeds of discrimination in their children.

    The video shows that diversity is beautiful and that is why we have great talent this world has produced.

    Please don’t bully and hurt the feelings of the most beautiful people who live around us.

    https://www.facebook.com/1033486342/posts/10215587306169088/

  • 5
    0

    CT, If you must write an article on matters such as this try to be unbiased.

    1. You blame colonial laws being imposed on this country………our entire legal system is based on Roman Dutch law.

    2. Younignore the right of any institution to implement its code of conduct whether in dress, grooming or any such matter.

    3. Your headline suggests that it is the students fundemental right to use a school fashion show as a platform to highlight a cause. Many public events have exclusions on subjects of Religion, Politics and Sex especially when the audience is a cross section of age groups and other diversity.

    I think All Persons deserve to be respected and accepted irrespective of their race, religion, caste, social status, affluence or sexual orientation. Equally I believe that any institution school or otherwise is within their rights to exercise their code of conduct, dress or other such matters. Does not the Dalada Maligawa have a dress code that prevents ladies entering in shorts shirts or shorts. You don’t see these visitors protesting about there fundamental rights.

    In case you are unaware in such liberal countries like England national flags carried by fans are prohibited even at cricket matches. Do you see them protesting about their fundamental rights.

    You do more harm than good to the child in this instance by writing such a biased article. I am certain the child did not ask you to do this……..now what about her right to privacy!!

  • 2
    0

    As a former student of CIS, let me first state that I am highly sympathetic to the situation this student found herself in.

    However, at a private school like CIS, public opinion doesn’t matter. Education is the service and the student (and her parents) is the customer. When they signed the agreement, the student basically promised to abide by the school rules or he/she will be punished for whatever rules were broken.

    As of now, the argument is between the school and the student. Basically servicer and customer. The customer can sue the institution for infringements of rights but LGBT rights are not legal in Sri Lanka. As of now, the school has nothing to be afraid of. This student is in year 13 (grade 12). If she chooses to continue as a student, she will graduate in less than 10 months and the matter will simply be swept under the rug. As a 100% privately owned institution, the school is immune to outsider influence as 1)LGBT rights is not legal in Sri Lanka, 2) It does not have an Alumni Association or does not receive any funding / donations from past pupils , 3) Public opinion doesn’t matter – people have been ranting about international schools for decades but they are still in business and CIS is still incredibly popular

    As of now, the school only has to worry about the financial loss of a couple of lakhs rupees if the student chooses not to continue.

    Unless there is political pressure from the education ministry, the school is free to do as it pleases. If you want change, petition to change the law and amend the constitution of Sri Lanka.

  • 1
    0

    “Under age” child? Is this an epizeuxis? How can a child be under age? Would that make her an infant?

  • 0
    0

    Also. The rainbow flag is a representation of the queer community. To identify yourself as homosexual doesn’t mean the only thing you want is to get jiggy with someone of the same sex. It’s a state of being, mind and presence.
    Why are you equating this child’s flaunting of a rainbow flag to mean the sexualisation of children who are possibly not sexually developed.
    Also… it’s a rainbow flag. Any child would love a rainbow flag, whether they are LGBT or not. THEY ARE CHILDREN.
    As for the child wanting to wear pants, I believe all school uniform should be pants for boys and girls. Why are girls made to wear short skirts? They are just terribly impractical.

  • 2
    0

    Dear Sir,

    After reeding the CIS mater i as a Parents at Royal Institute colombo we face so many problems which needs help can you’ll help us my name is Hamdoon Booso 0771743771
    thanks and regards

  • 0
    0

    SL has become a country of twats!

    How can anyone possibly say, that school is a place of learning and not a place to show their sexuality/ sexual identity? ppl like you are the root cause of issues in the world! Learning is not just how to do you math and calculate the velocity of the projectile! Kids need to learn how to be responsible adults when the go out in to the big bad world.
    The rulebook need to be rewritten. Update to reflect the 21st century.

  • 0
    0

    I agree with The Saint. While self expression and being proud of yourself is all well and good, there are codes of conduct and other binding rules that the student has to abide by when their parents sign on the dotted line. Using the school talent show or fashion show or whatever as a platform to push an agenda is wrong and the Colombo Telegraph is gonna milk this for days to come.

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