19 December, 2018

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Shame On You: Colombo International School 

By Chamindra Weerawardhana –

Dr. Chamindra Weerawardhana

The Colombo International School and its Acting Principal have been practicing daylight discrimination against a pupil in the most shameless and despicable way. The pupil’s fault? Wanting to include a rainbow flag in a fashion show outfit. When the Acting Principal, a cis white British woman, did not give permission, the child complied, and instead found more creative ways of including the rainbow flag in her routine, by covering her school bag in a rainbow flag. The Acting Principal, Sarah Philipps, then ruthlessly imposed punishments on the child, with “five negative marks and a subsequent detention, plus exclusion from attendance and participation in all extra-curricular activities including School Anniversary events and fashion show.”

This is an extremely despicable situation, in a school founded by the veteran educator Elizabeth Moir. 

The letter sent to the pupil’s parents by the Acting Principal is problematic on a number of fronts. 

Uniform Policy: Tom Brown’s Schooldays are long gone, Dear Sarah!

Firstly, Sarah Philipps states that the pupil in question has been wearing trousers for school “although it was pointed out to her that this was not the school uniform applicable to girls”. The Acting Principal seems to be visibly disturbed by a pupil breaking, if not going against the colonially imposed gender binary in school uniforms. In the Acting Principal’s own country, the United Kingdom, schools and education authorities are increasingly developing policies for the inclusion of children within the LGBT+ spectrum, altering strict uniform policies of yesteryear, and in an effort to make schools friendly, protective and caring places for LGBT+ children. 

Letter of Shame sent by Sarah Philipps, Acting Principal at Colombo International School, to the pupil’s parents. Image: Colombo Telegraph

This Acting Principal, however, seems to be completely oblivious to such crucial developments in the enhancement of fundamental rights in education. How come this British woman was clueless about documentation produced in the UK such as the Stonewall guide “An Introduction to supporting LGBT young people: A Guide for Schools”, is an important question. 

Several private citizens and LGBT+ rights-focused social media campaigns were highly critical of the Acting Principal. 

Credits: ©Sri Lanka is Next campaign & Facebook Inc. Some sections where the personal details that concern the child appear have been redacted, for ethical reasons.

Credits: ©Jessica Ferrari & Facebook Inc. Some sections where the personal details that concern the child appear have been redacted, for ethical reasons.

An insightful article by Aloka Wijesinha, a SOGIESC rights advocate and writer. Read more here.

The Rainbow Flag 

Secondly, the entire rainbow flag issue is more than laughable. The rainbow flag is a universally accepted symbol of tolerance, respect, love and human rights. If anything, the pupil should have been applauded and celebrated for wanting to include a rainbow flag in their fashion show outfit. 

In more recent years, more colours have been added to the rainbow flag to make it increasingly inclusive of trans and queer peoples, Indigenous peoples and peoples of colour who face considerable marginalisation in the global LGBT+ movement. In other words, there can be fewer flags, apart from the quasi-identical Buddhist flag perhaps, that emphasises values of peace, love and inclusion. 

Above: The British Houses of Parliament lit in Rainbow Colours for London Pride 2017 Photo: ©The Telegraph.

The sanctions imposed by this British white woman, who cannot even spell the pupil’s last name properly in official communication sent to the pupil’s [fee paying] parents, have a deeply and unmistakably colonial dimension. The behaviour of Sarah Philipps stands in line with the homophobia and conservatisms of the British establishment in Victorian times, which continue to be influential in some segments of the British polity. In 2015 it was reported that the then Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, who had voted against equal marriage in 2012, issued guidelines against hoisting the rainbow flag at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and at British embassies/high commissions abroad. Such conservatisms, however, are short-lived. The tide is turning in favour of the fundamental rights of all peoples, and this is a truism across the world. In both 2017 and 2018, Prime Minister Theresa May hosted Pride receptions at 10, Downing Street. 

The rainbow flag flying at 10, Downing Street, Summer 2018. Credits: UK Prime Minister Official Flikr feed.

The Colonial Legacy of Homophobia: The Elephant in the Room

The British forcibly imposed Victorian conservatisms on Sri Lankans, which we are still struggling to repeal from our Penal Code. Today, in the context of the highest court of justice in the South Asian region’s superpower taking steps to repeal such repressive laws, there is a renewed interest in the entire region on challenging all aspects of persistent British-imposed social and legal conservatisms. 

In this context, for a British woman in an educator role in a leading Colombo school to behave in such a way is beyond pathetic. It is as if Sarah Philipps deliberately wanted to deploy her position to impose Victorian conservatisms on brown-skinned Sri Lankan children. It is as if she assumed that she can go ahead and impose harsh punishments on a brown-skinned Sri Lankan child, with no concern over the consequences of such action. 

Sri Lanka, I remind Ms Philipps, is no longer a British colony, and this year, by the way is 2018, and not 1898, when the actions of a British educator in Sri Lanka would have gone unchallenged. 

No space for homophobia: This writer delivering Sri Lanka’s Inaugural Annual Pride Speech, 3 May 2018, Colombo. Credits ©Senel Wanniarachchi & Twitter.com.

Sack Sarah Philipps

The pupil in question has been subjected to the most vile, inhuman and undue harassment. The Acting Principal of Colombo International School, Sarah Philipps, should be promptly sacked, and should not be given any teaching opportunity in any primary, secondary or postsecondary institution in Sri Lanka, in the United Kingdom, or for that matter in any other country or institution with the slightest regard for the fundamental rights of students and young people. Aloka Wijesinha, a young Sri Lankan queer woman and writer, has created the hashtag #SackSarahPhilipps, and there could not be a more timely hashtag. 

Fullest Solidarity with the Pupil 

While expressing fullest and unconditional solidarity to the brave young pupil, I reiterate that this incident should be deployed as an eye-opener for schools to pay increased attention to the rights and wellbeing of pupils in the LGBT+ spectrum. The way forward invariably lies in the development and implementation of Inclusive and child-friendly policies, and not draconian punishments and ostracising children for being themselves. 

Finally, it should be noted that some elements in the Colombo elite are trying to downplay this incident, and paint a picture of this incident as a ‘minor’ matter, not worth being discussed. This is a cautious ploy to protect the privileged white woman who committed an act of aggression and homophobia towards a pupil. At the same time, the same pro-LGBT+ liberals who downgrade this incident would have taken up arms had this incident occurred in a Sinhala-speaking government school. To some LGBT+ activists in Colombo’s elite circles, their class interests and international connections – and not the interests of an innocent LGBT+ child – come first. This incident should be taken very seriously, and it should be scrutinised in detail. A foreign woman with a work visa has engaged in homophobic abuse on an innocent child. This incident falls into the same category as that in which a child was ostracised from a provincial school because their mother happened to be HIV positive. Although the two incidents take place in two polar opposite places in a country with deep-seated socioeconomic divisions, the motifs are not dissimilar. The Ministry of Education should carry out an investigation, and delve into forms of abusive treatment in so-called elitist international schools. Sarah Philipps’s visa should be revoked, followed by legal action. It is time to set a vital precedent, that teachers like Sarah Philipps have absolutely no place in the teaching profession, in Sri Lanka or elsewhere. 

*The writer (@fremancourt) is an international SOGIESC rights advocate, international consultant, academic and political analyst. She was the LGBT+ Officer of the Labour Party in Northern Ireland, and in May 2018, delivered Sri Lanka’s first inaugural annual Pride Speech in Colombo. She is an advisor to the Community Welfare Development Fund, created to assist LGBT+ Sri Lankans in need. Dr Weerawardhana is the author of Decolonising Peacebuilding: Managing Conflict from Northern Ireland to Sri Lanka and Beyond. She is currently a Research Affiliate at the Centre for Gender, Feminisms and Sexualities at University College Dublin. 

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Latest comments

  • 49
    21

    Sarah Philipps has done the correct thing and should be commended. Permitting this would be opening the floodgates for this type of behavior. Chamindra Weerawardhana has certainly gone over the top in this article. She should stay in Ireland with her weird and queer practices .

    • 15
      24

      What a joke of a comment. I don’t always agree with this writer, but in this article she is spot on. The child has done nothing wrong. Some children are LGBT+ and that’s who they are and they have every right to be treated with respect and dignity. Schools should be there to have inclusive policies and make all children welcome. The way you are saying, you want to marginalise a child for not being the way you want the child to be. How stupid is that? Wake up from your Victorian hangover. This is not about you or this principal woman. This is about a child. A child who has done nothing wrong.

      • 30
        8

        “, I remind Ms Philipps, is no longer a British colony, and this year, by the way is 2018, and not 1898, when the actions of a British educator in Sri Lanka ———-“
        I fail to see the logic of this statement. If SL was indeed a British colony, There wouldn’t be this flap, because as the author says, British schools allegedly tolerate LGBT students.
        However, sympathetic as I am to LGBT people (NOT LGBT schoolchildren) , let us think what would happen if the student displayed an ISIS flag ? Or even an Eelam flag? The Eelam flag is much-displayed in UK.
        The purpose of a school is to mould children to fit into society, and rules are formulated to this end. Students must leave their political and sexual preferences at home, even non-LGBT ones. They can do whatever they wish outside school.

        • 11
          2

          Completely agree with you Mr. Codger. Bravo.

          If you let the gays start parading their flags, they too will want a separate state and then, potentially, try to convert the rest of us into their homosexual ways as well. Don’t be fooled by this rainbow mirth, it is just terrorism by another name.

          Also, yes. The role of a school is to create societal automatons, so similar to each other, that they are virtually exchangeable. I am dismayed that CIS even lets their students discuss entertainment (for example, television shows on the internet, the proliferation of compact disks, and worrying the rise of this snapchat business) since this is a well-known conduit for seditious and amoral behavior. How better to create the next generation of leaders in this country?

          • 1
            1

            In the previous post, I erroneously excluded VHS tapes (and their betamax cousins). To clarify, I am opposed to their discussion as well since they are also vectors of filth that do not befit the desired societal moulds.

          • 5
            0

            Dear CIS Alum,
            “How better to create the next generation of leaders in this country?”
            You might have noticed in your wisdom that the present generation of leaders are quite free in their sexual preferences. No issue with that, though they haven’t attended any gay pride parades yet. This quote might put you out of your misery ” Your religion is like your penis. You may be proud of it, talk about it too, but you don’t whip it out and display it in public” . Get it?

      • 13
        4

        It’s time to stop this harping on the ‘Victorian’ era for everything, The child may not have done something ‘wrong’ but schools are there to guide children. The story that some people are born LGBT is a canard spread by the promiscuous. LGBT is something acquired like the tendency to alcoholism or gambling. It is certainly a fact and needs to be recognised accordingly, not glorified and promoted the way it is being done at present. The end result to society of this trend to LGBT, Queer etc etc is not difficult to see for those with common sense.

    • 5
      12

      Seriously? Where then should we stay? Am Sri Lankan – and gay!!
      Isn’t it time your blatant homophobia is put to rest?

    • 9
      1

      …and you should be in a slave camp on a sugarcane plantation in Jamaica back in 1755 surrounded by white slave drivers on your tail with horse whips.
      .
      Please stop being so subservient. Its time we all lost this master-slave attitude when it comes to rights.
      .
      The truth is that as a human being we all are privy to a universal set of rights that no one dare deny. It is a well established and accepted fact.
      .
      In essence one has to look at any situation through the eyes of an individual and then decide if that individual is right or wrong. So put yourself in the place of that girl and ask yourself this, why is she asking for what she is asking? If you were her what would you be doing? Is it fare under her specific circumstances? Do you think that you should be judged on the basis of your orientation, colour, race, cast or creed?
      .
      Mind you Buddha taught us this 2,500 years ago. We claim that Sri Lanka is a Buddhist country but we are clueless about the fundamental teachings of the Buddha. Buddhism has become a weapon to marginalize the helpless and the minorities. Remember Muditha, Karuna, Upeka, Maithree.
      .
      We should learn to use Buddhism constructively and appreciate how other humans and religions too have caught up with and surpassed us in many ways. They are in fact preaching to us now, thanks to narrow-minded, bigoted, sadistic, racist, inhuman, savage, uncivilized, uneducated, embryonic, germinal, primeval, primordial people like you.
      .
      Lasith

    • 1
      4

      probably a lesbo with wired desires .

    • 1
      0

      By floodgates, you mean all the way up to the government like the PM and the FM etc… ? Agreed. That would be a crisis.

    • 1
      0

      Is it true that this child was adopted and raised by a single gay parent? If so, doesn’t the case take on another dimension??

  • 18
    1

    You should return to Sri Lanka. There will definitely be a place in cabinet for you .

  • 13
    23

    Shame on you Colombo International School. Just because you entered in to a tiff with the child, now you being out a three year old uniform issue? Why did you not implement your dress code then? Also, if such a problem were there this child should have been listened to back then. There are some children who deviate form the IS uniform on humanitarian grounds. This issue should also have been discusses in humane and a professional manner.
    How can Sarah Phillips jump to the conclusion about a child’s sexual orientation. Can’t a child love the rainbow colours? I certainly did when I was young.
    Sarah Philips should be notified to the proper authorities in the UK. She should be removed from any position of contact with other children.
    What these narrow minded, evil women not suited for educating even a plant fail to understand is that this can be her own child one day. Sarah Philips has 4 children. Shame on you. Go back to your own country and try your luck violating fundamental rights of children.

    • 11
      6

      In a nutshell, this Acting Principal wants to take revenge on this student. How come a school tolerated a student for years not wearing the school uniform? They only informed to the student, and did nothing further or tried to reach the parents?

      It is a shame on the school to let a student’s mistakes accumulate and not correct it immediately, and then after years have gone by, punish the student for the mistakes that the school was lazy to take immediate action?

      This clearly shows that the school’s failure in nipping such things in the bud, has caused the child to get worse – Parents should be questioning the principal and administration on this.

  • 34
    11

    I feel like going on hormone treatment and going under the knife myself after reading this crap.

    How difficult is it for these LGBTI+@%# activists to understand the simple fact that a school with a uniform is not the place to campaign for equal rights, but to dress in their uniform if you are interested in studying there.

    Those with other agendas should wrap around their rainbow sarees, cheeththas and anything they like and go and display their wares out of school.

    This is not a rights matter of LGBTS, but a rights matter of the school to maintain its discipline.
    ENOUGH ISs ENOUGH.

  • 8
    3

    Can a school decide on a gender preference and a dress code for a particular gender in this day and age. The sad part is that there are many who don’t even know that there are more than two gender variations in this world. Facebook has over 71 gender options brought to the UK and you can do a search on this.

    It clearly shows that the people who are leading the institution are not living with the reality of the modern world, neither they are developing the kids to be able to live comfortably in an inclusive non-gender discriminative world.

    The choice of a persons gender, the emotions and affection should not be defined by society, it must be an individuals right. Whats sad is that the old victorian era of though is being preserved in this day and age where science has moved so far.

  • 7
    8

    Schools with a uniform itself is the biggest victorian industrial era of thinking, It was designed for equality and to develop a monotonous factory worker for the industrial age.

    In todays digital age with the need to build individuals with creativity and diverse thinking for entrepreneurship these concepts of uniform, hairstyle and other standard norms are only taking away the right of a person to be who they are.

    It sad…

    • 8
      7

      Uniforms are designed to promote equality. They prevent wealthy children showing off, with fashionable and expensive clothes that poorer children cannot afford. Imagine the embarrassment of a poor child who cannot afford to dress like her peers. Imagine the ridicule from rich kids, the sneering, the bullying. Uniforms prevent all that. As far as clothes and fashion are concerned, uniforms make every child equal.

      • 1
        1

        this is CIS. they stopped promoting equality when the fees were something like 20 times the median income in the country.

  • 19
    8

    I am a parent of a child who studied at CIS. I certainly have many areas where I could not see eye to eye on many occasions. But in this case I fully support the Principal. If she is not allowed to uphold the standards that have been agreed and laid out, then, there is no point in being the Principal. CT has got the priorities reversed this time.

    • 19
      8

      Well said. I support Sara Philips and she must carry on.

  • 11
    6

    LGBT is a lifestyle choice. Therefore, it should not be grouped under the category of human rights, under which people have no control over their ethnicity, gender, etc. A better category would be “values.” Secondly, a school is not a bastion of liberal thinking. There is a clear agenda, and the agenda can only achieved via conformity! School uniforms, timetables, exams, sitting in a room with 20X other children, the idea is that if the child can repeat this process for 12 years, then he/she may obtain a job and repeat a similar process for 35-40 more years, thereby contributing something useful to society. With the exception of university, learning is only a secondary item on the list. If the school goes the route of LGBT, the notion of conformity will be shattered. The power structure will also be jeopardized, if those in charge cannot enforce the “rules.” This is a private school, so money is also an element. Those conservatives with large purses will remove their children from the school.

    My point is, if you want your child to think a certain way or reach a certain potential, do not rely on a teacher or schools, but do it yourself. Knowledge is something we carry our entire lives, therefore it worth the effort. And do not teach the child to oppose rules arbitrarily, but respect the values of the organization, as this will be important for later life.

  • 23
    7

    I was a former student at CIS in the 80’s. If a student or parent does not like the dress code, they are free to leave. There is a dress code at most places. Schools, businesses, places of worship…… even at a wedding or a funeral.

    The serious lack of discipline among the people today is obvious. If the parents don’t like it, they can home school their child. End of story.

  • 12
    7

    Chamindra
    Keep looking for your pot of gold .
    Doubt you will find it here anytime soon though .

  • 16
    7

    Kids should learn discipline at school.If they do not want to and start rebelling against rules and regulations now, then they will have problems later in their professions and lives. Everything up there, beyond the school, is regulated, professions, ethics, behaviour in the society, social events,the lot; even inside the prisons officially and unofficially (because even there the older die hard criminals set their rules over new comers). Go against the rules and disciplines, then you are in trouble. Dont hide behind HR for everything and give HR lawyers a meal ticket. Save your money, time and energy, learn some discipline if you wish to live on Earth peacefully, of if not ask the Earth to stop so that you can get off it. PD

  • 8
    4

    Dr (Ms) Chamindra Weerawardhana names and shames Colombo International School.
    She says ~ “The pupil in question has been subjected to the most vile, inhuman and undue harassment”.
    Chamindra: Do not tell me that you do not know the Police and Armed Forces harassment, torture and ‘demands’ suffered by millions of Lankans face every second every day.
    Bringing LGBT in here is clumsy. The child cannot understand LGBT issues.
    The Principal deserves sympathy and you have done exactly that. Was it intentional?
    PS: The school has produced members of ‘the culture of corruption/nepotism/impunity’ club.

    • 9
      2

      In a lawless country like SL this kind of school is like red a red flag to a raging bull.Weerawadena must be from political family who wants an unruly society.

  • 4
    3

    Knowing well how the school functions and knowing the chief protagonists I am sure the acting principal does not concur with the letter which would likely have been authored by the real school leadership not a cipher. However if you sign it you own it, hence Ms .Phillips position is untenable. Sri Lanka has bastions of antiquated homophobic views and needs to embrace diversity and the 21st century and we don’t need intolererance to be reinforced by our educators. Tolerance and broad mindedness not prejudice and hatred should prevail. CIS ought to acknowledge it’s error but I doubt the real school leadership is big enough to do so. Bullies and cowards rarely accept their folly and seek to impede the progress that will eventually come but only after struggle and needless pain and division.

  • 12
    1

    In my honest opinion I think LGBT+ people should have the same rights as everyone else and should be treated with dignity. What they do with their rear-ends is none of our business.

    But I am strictly to two things.

    1. LGBTQ+ folks adopting children and raising them.
    2. LGBT+ folks targeting straight folks.

    • 1
      0

      blessing from the triple gem. sir good to see you postings on website. in army, we had a saying kiyala that whatever happen in army, stay in army. scene-ekka ehemai neh?

    • 0
      0

      Reggie,
      If you do some research, you will see that in this instance, # 1 is the case.
      Most commenters aren’t aware of this. There is no Mr& Mrs parents It’s only Mr.

      • 1
        0

        PUK Jayantha,

        I didn’t know if this was legal in SL. But in the West, there are same sex parents raising children.

        The influence these parents have on these children is what is concerning to me. These helpless children will be taught by their so-called “parents” to behave in a Gay way when the kids happen to be perfectly normal and straight kids.

  • 1
    0

    I do not read this LAdy/man’s article. What really happened. Did he/she was making love in the class room or in the school. Because, hetero sexual couples, maximum may have red lips and red cheeks on the girl as they did something in hiding. In this case, may be two boys while one walking like a girl.

  • 2
    2

    What can you expect in a land of troglodytes where Anuanyakas want dictatorships and Cardinals don’t want human rights ? Even the Brits (assuming the Principal is a Brit) get corrupted and sink to local prejudices though, before the Brits made it illegal there was no such law in Lanka. This child is now traumatised for life. The School should stop using the handle “International” and just say “Parochial” meaning intolerant, discriminating, illiberal, reactionary, insular, small-minded, petty, blinkered, inward-looking, narrow, hidebound, prejudiced, bigoted

  • 1
    0

    This should be discussed with our Minister of Education – Mr. Akila Viraj Kariyawasam.

  • 0
    0

    JD time to see your doctor and restart medicine. Mental Health/patient rights dosent include filth. Looks like you are very comfortable living in that gutter.

  • 4
    0

    Well done acting principal

  • 3
    1

    Schools are where discipline is taught. This child should learn not to assert and force her preferences in school. Next time if a student wants to wear a niqab or burka to school does the Principal have no say but to allow this. Its a few members of the public that are outraged by this. The parents and teachers belonging to this school are fully supportive of the action taken.

  • 1
    1

    Don’t most men and particularly politicians in Sri Lanka wear skirts — what else is a sarong? — most of the time anyway? Perhaps Phillips can use this to set an example and challenge this subtle and shameful homoeroticism that pervades our culture.

  • 5
    1

    The Acting Principal clearly signed a letter which was given to her by her Sri Lankan masters! It is not even written in proper English.
    There are always 2 sides to every story and on the face of it it would appear the school has handled the situation badly.
    BUT THIS DOES NOT MEAN THAT THAT THE AUTHOR CAN RESORT TO RACISM!
    What relevance is the colour of the skin or nationality of the Acting Principal?
    If this was the UK , the author would be accused of a hate crime!!

  • 1
    4

    You mother Fxxxxng bigots I don’t believe this Sri Lankans you fxxxng bigots and the fxxxng idiot who claims being born that way is promiscuous. Like hell this fxxxng cUNTry is going to make it.
    Fuck you all bigots .
    Fucking hypocrites .

    It’s an international Schools which rips off ,ask the fucking British whole to get lost .
    You are going to face a million march against you , we the straights are going to march in support of her and shut fucking school and kick the fucking British botch out .

    All hell is going to.break.out
    And to the asshole who have commented about mental health you will end up with one soon ,then you will wake up .

    Now we know the readers of the CT who comment 90% bigots and assholes .

    His Excellency is often made fun and mocked as a gamarala ,but he has humanity ,compassion and for sure a brilliant progressive he stood strong in his decision on a case.

  • 4
    0

    Imao, my friend calm down. If you keep writing profanity and filth, anyone will question your mental health (CT what is your commenting policy??????? I am confused. One more thing. Daily you are writing using different names JD, Jimmy, Imao …..etc which raises more concerns to suspect Flight of ideas or a personality of antisocial/histrionic/narcissistic traits. Please get help and stop rambling.

  • 1
    0

    My goodness! The hype! Look at all of you up in arms.. the cool thing to do huh? Yet you guys have lost sight of one thing! Homophobic my butt! There is nothing homophobic abt what the school did. They had no choice!! Are you so obtuse and hysterical not to see the fact that they are protecting themselves from a legal standpoint?? It is illegal here in SL. Bloody hysterical bunch of idiots!

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