More than 1,000 pupils have called for him to be reinstated.
Eton College has defended its decision to sack an English teacher in a dispute over a ‘sexist’ lecture video.
Teacher Will Knowland has sparked a freedom of speech row after he posted a lecture questioning the ‘current radical feminist orthodoxy’ on his YouTube channel after the school refused to let him teach it in class.
Eton’s provost Lord Waldegrave last night said two barristers found that the lecture, which Mr Knowland allegedly refused six times to take down, broke equality law and regulations for independent schools.
But more than 1,000 children have now signed a petition demanding that Mr Knowland be allowed to return to the £42,500-a-year school.
Meanwhile, 452 people have donated more than £32,000 for him to challenge his dismissal in the Employment Tribunal. His sacking is under appeal.
Lord Waldegrave, a former Tory minister and chairman of the school’s governing body, denied accusations that the school censored debate over the topic and said the issue was over ‘internal discipline’.
He told the Daily Mail that Mr Knowland refused six times to take the video down while they found a solution and was dismissed for gross misconduct.
He said: ‘Eton now, as in the past, is a school which prides itself on encouraging open-minded, independent and critical thinking.
‘Boys are encouraged to think about and discuss challenging topics. Eton will never cancel debate. Everyone accepts, including the teacher concerned, that such freedom cannot be absolute.
‘When the Head Master received complaints about this particular video, there were suggestions that it broke the Equality Act and the Education (Independent Schools Standards) Regulations.
‘An independent barrister was consulted who said, in a written opinion, that this was indeed so.’
The lecture was called the Patriarchy Parody and was made to make pupils aware of the ‘different point of view to the current radical feminist orthodoxy.’
It argues that ‘patriarchy is, rather and being constructed, partly based on biology’ and makes the case that patriarchy is not about the ‘male domination of women’ but is beneficial to women, families and society.
Some teachers have backed Mr Knowland, who has taught at the school for nine years, with one staff member telling the Telegraph: ‘It has very much come from the top with the new head. A lot of the teaching staff do not like it.’
Another source told the newspaper they think headmaster Simon Henderson is trying to change the school’s reputation as an ‘old-fashioned pillar of social and male elitism’.
Mr Knowland sent a letter to the community at Eton last week that ‘the Head Master [Henderson] felt that some of the ideas put forward in my lecture – such as the view that men and women differ psychologically and not all of those differences are socially constructed – were too dangerous for the boys to be exposed to.
‘I explained to the Head Master that I wasn’t endorsing all the ideas in my lecture, but I wanted the boys to be made aware of a different point of view to the current radical feminist orthodoxy.’
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