Batley Grammar School which has been at the heart of a row over pupils being shown a cartoon of the prophet Muhammed has suspended two more teachers, it has been reported.
Previously, one of the West Yorkshire teachers had already gone into hiding with his partner and four children after receiving death threats over a Charlie Hebdo cartoon of the prophet being used during a religious studies lesson. It has now emerged that two other teachers were also sent home but this was not revealed to the public over fears of wider criticism.
A source in a statement to MailOnline said, “Two other teachers are also being investigated but the school has been trying to keep it secret because they don’t want attention being drawn to the fact that this went beyond the actions of one person.
“They were not in the class at time but were aware that offensive material was going to be used.”
In the meantime, the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) has welcomed the school’s acknowledgment that the material shown in class is inappropriate for use as a resource in a teaching environment. They further note that the school is taking proactive steps to engage the local community so as to resolve the matter, and that the engagement between the school and parents on the ground remains measured, respectful and productive in nature.
Reports suggest the image shown to students was one that depicted the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) wearing a turban with a bomb in it – an extremely offensive image that plays into the Islamophobic trope of Muslims and/or Islam being synonymous with terrorism, and Muslims having a unique penchant for violence.
According to parents at the school, the cartoons created a hostile atmosphere and led to Islamophobic discourse and language. We all want our schools to be inclusive spaces that foster a productive learning environment – an increase in Islamophobic discourse within a school setting cannot be deemed as acceptable.
The NEU guidance on the responsibilities of teachers states that, “All teachers, including those on the way to gaining QTS, have a ‘duty of care’ towards their pupils. According to this duty of care, you are required to apply your education and acquired skills to safeguard pupils, demonstrating reasonable and careful professional standards while you are at work.”
A 2015 study on young people’s attitudes towards Muslims revealed that 31% of young children surveyed agreed with the statement that ‘Muslims are taking over England’ to some extent – an Islamophobic conspiracy theory that used to be the preserve of the far-right. Whilst in 2017, for example, Childline reported that it had held over 2,500 counselling sessions for children concerned about race and faith-based bullying, where children as young as nine reported being called terrorists, enduring abuse, and threats of violence.