There is an interesting story out of England where a teacher is suing the school system for failing to take action after he made various complaints over Muslim students who direct anti-Christian language toward him and praised the 9-11 hijackers. Nicholas Kafouris, 52, is suing his former school for racial discrimination. It appears that things may be a bit tougher since the days of Mark Thackeray in East London in “To Sir With Love.”
Kafouris claims that his students openly praised Islamic extremists as ‘heroes and martyrs” and said that they want to become suicide bombers. He also says that one student would not let him brush against him to avoid touching a Christian.
He says that headmistress Jill Hankey at Bigland Green Primary School in Tower Hamlets, East London ignored the complaints.
If true, the case raises the issue of how a school should respond to such comments. While children often experiment by voicing such juvenile statements, it is also important for adults to correct such statements rather than reinforce them. Some teachers may want to illicit such comments to facilitate a broader discussion on prejudice and violence. It is important to get students to articulate such views and, hopefully, come to see the intolerance behind those views. This teacher says, however, that the comments were routine and were both anti-Christian and anti-semitic. They were also violent in nature, according to his complaint.
East London has often been cited as an area with a radicalized segment of the Muslim population.
There is an on-going debate over the prosecution of hate speech vis-a-vis the first amendment in this country. However, expressing anti-Christian or anti-Semitic or anti-Muslim sentiment can be threatening to other students.
There may be another side to this story and we have not heard Ms. Hankey’s account. However, the case may focus attention on the role of the school to respond to statements of prejudice from students. It is often a difficult line to walk for teachers who want students to feel free to share their views while opposing statements that could be viewed as threatening to other students or groups.
For the story, click here.
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