A sacked Eton College tutor at the centre of a free speech row has today lost his appeal.
The governing body of the £42,500-a-year Berkshire college has upheld the decision of school chiefs to sack Will Knowland.
The English teacher was dismissed over an online lecture tackling radical feminism and the concept of ‘toxic masculinity’.
His dismissal, for reportedly refusing to take down his lecture from his personal YouTube channel, sparked outrage among students, who immediately launched a petition for Mr Knowland to be reinstated.
It also plunged the private school, which is currently closed due to a Covid-19 outbreak, into a row over its supposedly ‘woke’ values under current headmaster Simon Henderson.
However the school governing body has now upheld the decision following an appeal hearing chaired by Princes William and Harry’s ex-housemaster.
The Free Speech union, of which Mr Knowland is a member, described today’s ruling as a ‘betrayal’ of the school’s history and vowed to take the fight to Parliament.
Eton teacher Will Knowland, who was sacked in a row over free speech is taking the fight for his job to Parliament – hoping to call on an unusual type of legislation not used for decades to save his future
Eton College CLOSES due to Covid outbreak among students and staff
Eton College has temporarily closed due to a coronavirus outbreak among students and teachers.
The £42,500-a-year school’s headmaster Simon Henderson wrote a letter to parents saying ‘a number of symptomatic boys and staff tested positive’ for the virus.
Mr Henderson said there is a ‘real danger’ the number could spiral out of control this weekend if action isn’t taken in a letter seen by MailOnline.
He did not specify how many pupils tested positive at the boarding school – which houses boys between the ages of 13 and 18.
Students will continue to learn remotely until the end of term.
A letter sent last week said: ‘Having been largely Covid free since Long Leave, a number of symptomatic boys and staff have tested positive in the past few days. We are awaiting results on several others, with more scheduled to be tested.
‘We also now have a significant number of boys and staff self-isolating as close contacts.’
He said it was clear there is ‘Covid within the school’.
He added: ‘Having taken medical advice, we believe there is a real danger that the number of cases could increase significantly over the weekend and into next week unless we take action.
‘The health and well being of the school community is my top priority.’
In a statement, the union said: ‘The Free Speech Union is disappointed to learn that Eton’s governing body has decided to uphold the decision to sack our member Will Knowland.
‘No teacher should lose his or her job for challenging ideological orthodoxy, least of all a teacher at Eton.
‘This is a betrayal of the school’s 580-year history of encouraging its pupils to think critically and independently about difficult questions.
‘The Free Speech Union will be referring Eton’s trustees to the Charity Commission and the Attorney General for failing to discharge their duty to protect Eton’s reputation and to ensure it is pursuing its charitable object, which is to advance education for the benefit of its students.
‘In addition, the Free Speech Union will be working with its supporters in the House of Commons to amend the Equality Act 2010.’
The row started after Mr Knowland posted a lecture online, named the ‘Patriarchy Paradox’, which questioned radical feminists and praised the historical and societal impact of men.
The lecture, which was not shown to students, was prepared as part of the school’s Perspectives Classes for older pupils to consider different viewpoints.
He was refused permission to screen it directly to pupils after concerns were raised about its content, which it was later revealed included incorrect statistics about rape.
Mr Knowland responded by posting the video on his personal YouTube site, and was fired after he repeatedly refused to take it down.
He has attracted widespread support from current and former pupils ever since with many writing directly to the school to protest and criticising the school’s apparent lurch towards pursuing a ‘woke’ agenda silencing opposing views.
Last week it was revealed that Eton theology teacher Dr Luke Martin had quit his role as head of Perspectives classes in a move seen as a gesture of support for Mr Knowland.
Dr Martin, who is still at the school, accused headteacher Mr Henderson of presiding over an atmosphere where deviations from conventional thinking could lead to mockery or ‘formal discipline’.
The row has put Eton at the centre of a storm of protest over its supposedly ‘woke’ values under current headmaster Simon Henderson (pictured)
Old Etonians have lent their support to the English teacher – whose fate could be sealed by the end of the week – as one described ‘political correctness and wokeness as an evil’
His letter of complaint to vice provost Dr Gailey, warned that pupils were being forced to adopt a ‘so-called progressive’ ideology that pretended to be ‘inclusive, tolerant and kind’ but was akin to ‘religious fundamentalism’.
An online petition calling for Mr Knowland to be reinstated has also been signed by more than 2,700 current and former pupils as well as other supporters.
One old boy said on the online petition: ‘I regard political correctness and wokeness as an evil which is making a mockery of free speech and attempting to turn the history of this great Country upside down.
‘No respectable educational establishment should have any truck with it, and should resist firmly.’
Another said: ‘I am an Old Etonian from many years back and I remember the free intellectual atmosphere in those days, which sadly seems to have evaporated to the great detriment of the school.’
However other criticised the lecture, in which Mr Knowland appeared to argue sex attacks were overstated by feminists for political reasons, saying ‘rape, is not a unique claim for male oppression of women because male-on-male rape in jails dwarfs male-on-female rapes outside them’.
When challenged on his comment in remarks beneath the video, he stated ‘that the only serious scientific studies ever done on the subject estimate that … 40-60 per cent of rape accusations are false’.
Most experts believe that the proportion of false rape allegations in the UK is no more than 3 to 4 per cent. The FBI puts the level of unfounded reports in the US at 8 per cent.
Sarah Green, director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition, said Mr Knowland was guilty of ‘extremely selective and incorrect use of rape statistics’.
A fundraising appeal set up by Mr Knowland to help pay his legal fees at an employment tribunal if the loss of his job is confirmed, has so far raised more than £59,000 from 1,110 donors in the 11 days since his case became public.
The £60,000 target of the appeal on donorbox.org was recently raised to £100,000 to reflect the growing support he is receiving from many Old Etonians.
Mr Knowland makes no mention of Eton on the fund-raising page, but states he and his family face losing their home.
He says on the page: ‘I have been dismissed from my employment. My wife and I will be made homeless, along with our five children.
‘I am raising money to challenge my dismissal in the Employment Tribunal if necessary.’