UK school worker wins right to appeal firing over LGBTQ opposition

By Chris Eyte |
Kristie Higgs won right to appeal her firing over social media posts.
Kristie Higgs won right to appeal her firing over social media posts. | (Christian Daily International screenshot of Christian Concern YouTube)

A school employee fired for social media posts opposing LGBTQ+ materials in class has won the right to take her dismissal to the U.K. Court of Appeal.

Kristie Higgs, a 47-year-old Christian mother of two, won the right in a ruling late last month by Lady Justice Elisabeth Laing of the Court of Appeal of England and Wales. Higgs’ attorneys had argued that her case should not be sent back to the same employment tribunal that had made serious errors.

Higgs worked for seven years as a student counseling assistant at Farmor’s School in Fairford, Gloucestershire, before her dismissal in 2019.

“It’s shocking to think I’ve lost my job because of one parent who complained to the school because they didn’t agree with what I shared on my Facebook page, and for the school to take sides with that parent is hard to believe,” she said in a video interview with advocacy group Christian Concern, whose legal arm, Christian Legal Centre, is supporting her defense.

Higgs shared and posted the disputed messages on her personal Facebook page after receiving an invitation on Oct. 5, 2018 from the Church of England primary school that her younger son attended. 

Entitled, “Teaching the Equality Act in Schools,” the invitation read, “This year we are using several story books to help our school community promote diversity and celebrate difference. Children will become very familiar with the phrase, ‘No Outsiders In Our School,’ as they work through the story books.”

The letter stated that the program “is in line with the Equality Act 2010” and invited parents to see the books and lesson plans at a school event. Higgs said only she, another parent and a grandparent attended the viewing.  

She saw books such as “Jacob’s New Dress” by Sarah Hoffman, about a boy who likes to wear dresses, and “Red: A Crayon’s Story” by Michael Hall, about a blue crayon suffering an identity crisis because it is not red.

“To me it didn’t seem to be that it was just about anti-bullying,” Higgs said in the Christian Concern video. “There seemed to be something more underlying, with the Jacob’s New Dress and Red Crayon books, how children could choose their own gender. I thought it was very confusing for my child because of our Christian beliefs.”

Concerned that most parents were unaware of the gender identity books promoted by the school, Higgs posted on her Facebook page, under her maiden name, a message about the “No Outsiders” invitation. She also shared another post on a petition against introducing LGBTQ+ “Relationships and Sex Education (RSE)” in schools.

She uploaded the Citizens Go petition link on Oct. 24, 2018, which was headlined, “Uphold the right of parents to have children educated in line with their religious beliefs. Stop supporting LGBT indoctrination.” The petition was directed to then-U.K. Education Secretary Damian Hind. 

The petition included a statement about the Nov. 7 end of the government consultation period regarding making relationships education mandatory in primary schools and relationships and sex education mandatory in secondary schools.

“Which means, for example, that children will be taught that all relationships are equally valid and ‘normal,’ so that same-sex marriage is exactly the same as traditional marriage, and that gender is a matter of choice, not biology, so that it’s up to them what sex they are,” the petition stated. “At the same time, it means expressing and teaching fundamental Christian beliefs relating to the creation of men and women and marriage will in practice become forbidden – because they conflict with the new morality and are seen as indoctrination into unacceptable religious bigotry. Which means the freedom of belief will be destroyed, with freedom of speech permitted only for those who toe the party line!”

The petition called the plans “a vicious form of totalitarianism aimed at suppressing Christianity and removing it from the public arena.”

“Please sign this petition, they have already started to brainwash our innocent, wonderfully created children, and it’s happening in our local primary school now.” 

Higgs posted on Oct. 27, 2018, “This is happening in our primary schools now!” and provided a link to an article with the headline, “Jacob’s New Dress and Red: Crayon’s Story Give ‘Toni the Tampon’ a Run For Its Money.” 

In the video interview with Christian Concern, Higgs said she thought that “was the end of it,” but an anonymous parent complained to the headteacher about the posts, saying they were homophobic and offensive. Higgs was summoned to a meeting with the headteacher and a Human Relations staff member at the school. 

“They thought the posts I was sharing were homophobic and very negative, [saying], ‘Did you realize other parents would see these?’” recalled Higgs. “And so I just thought I suppose it’s on Facebook, and I supposed people would see them, but I didn’t really think I did anything wrong.” 

She said she was confused about why the school officials then sent her home.

“I didn’t do anything wrong. I just shared some information with other parents about what the government is planning and a critique article, and a couple of books that are being read,” Higgs said. “I came home and cried because I was in shock, and I still didn’t think I did anything wrong.”

The secondary school suspended her pending an investigation, and she endured a disciplinary hearing for six hours on Dec. 19, 2018. She received a letter on Jan. 7, 2019 firing her without warning for “gross misconduct.”

An employment tribunal on April 15, 2019 ruled against her claim of unlawful discrimination under the Equality Act 2010. She successfully appealed at an employment appeal tribunal in June of last year, but a judge ordered the case to be heard again by the original court that had rejected her claim.

As Higgs’ lawyers successfully appealed the order, the case is expected to proceed at the U.K. Court of Appeal this year. 

The email from the unnamed parent on Oct. 26, 2018 to headteacher Matthew Evans read, “...a member of your staff who works directly with children has been posting homophobic and prejudiced views against the LGBT community on Facebook...this individual may exert influence over the vulnerable pupils that may end up in isolation for whatever reason. I find these views offensive, and I am sure that when you look into it, you will understand my concern...”

Evans asked the parent to send “any similarly offensive posts.” According to court documents, the parent sent him screenshots from Higgs’ Facebook page with posts by people in the United States concerned about LGBQT+ material used in some U.S. schools. 

“I’m aware that not everyone has liberal views like myself,” the parent said in another message to Evans, “but I do feel that people working directly with children should refrain from posting this type of view on social media. I know of several children at Farmor’s who might fit into the category of person your staff member seems to find so obnoxious, friends of my children even.”

School business manager Sue Dorey investigated and recommended a progression of steps leading to a disciplinary hearing, according to the appeal employment tribunal record.

“By choosing to make the posts,” Dorey stated in her investigation report before the school's disciplinary hearing,“and stating that [Higgs] believes in God’s law and not Man’s Law, I believe that, on the balance of probability, this means that she holds views that are discriminatory against groups of people with protected characteristics.”

The initial employment tribunal had noted that Dorey concluded on a “balance of probability” that Higgs held “illegal” discriminatory views that broke the school code of conduct and discriminatory beliefs, including “that she does not believe in same-sex marriage and gender fluidity.”

Higgs told Christian Concern that she was taking a stand on behalf of children, other parents and, above all else, “for Jesus.” 

“My husband went to collect my belongings from the school [after the firing], and I saw them, and it was so sad because I haven’t done anything wrong,” she said in the Christian Concern video. “I haven’t treated any child any differently, because I am not against people, not against children, not against any LGBT person – I’m not homophobic.”

Higgs said she was only trying as a parent to help her child to learn what God says in the Bible.

“That is what they were teaching in schools not so long ago,” she said. “They were teaching my child God’s way, and now they are changing it, and I just wanted other parents to see the changes that are happening.”