UK teachers slammed for silencing students' pro-Palestine gestures

British schools launch investigations after teachers compare Palestine solidarity to racism, anti-semitism
3 min read
27 May, 2021
Several British educators are at the centre of controversy over what many are calling the mishandling of issues relating to pro-Palestine sentiment in schools.
Students hold pro-Palestine protests across the world [Getty]

Several British teaching staff, including a teacher and a headteacher, have drawn criticism over their response to pupils’ expressions of solidarity with Palestinians during Israel's recent bombardment of Gaza.

After clips of the teachers' remarks were recorded and posted online, they quickly went viral and sparked protests outside one of the schools and across parts of the UK.

In one video of a school assembly, Allerton Grange high school headteacher Mike Roper describes the Palestinian flag as being perceived as a “call to arms". The Leeds headteacher also claimed that some people see the flag as a “symbol of antisemitism”.

Roper's remarks drew criticism from politicians, academics and activists from across the UK.

“Imagine being a Palestinian kids at this guy's school, being told your national flag is inherently hateful,” Scottish Green MSP Ross Greer said. “Absolutely outrageous and racist behaviour from someone in a position of power.”

Academic and author Priyamvada Gopal said: “This is astounding. This is an actual live educator.”

Roper later released a statement saying he was “deeply sorry that a particular example I used in that assembly, referring to the Palestinian flag, has caused such upset", the Guardian reported.

Such incidents have been reported in schools across the UK, prompting questions over censorship and the importance of educating teachers on the history of the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Beauchamp College in Leicestershire has launched an investigation after a video purportedly showed a member of staff telling students they could not “support one side over the other”.

Rochdale’s Oulder Hill Community School also says it is investigating an incident about a viral audio recording believed to have been recorded in the school.

In the audio clip, a child reportedly in year 7 (12 or 13 years old) is asked why he has a “pro-Palestinian message on his face mask”.

The teacher begins by asking: “Do you know what; you don’t know me, I could be - my descendants could be Israeli Jews that Palestinians could have killed. How would that make me feel?"

“What are your political views? Share them, what are they? Go on tell us,” she continues, in a raised voice.

The child replies: “Babies and little children are being killed for no reason at all. It is happening in Palestine.”

The teacher responds: "There are also Israeli babies and children and women being killed, it’s not just one sided it’s a war, two sides," the teacher replies. “I can’t bear racism at all, if you have racist views keep them somewhere else they aren’t welcome here."

“This is how people end up being brainwashed about things like you have been... some people end up joining forces with these people,” she continues, in remarks which were interpreted by some as an Islamophobic reference to Muslim youngsters being recruited by foreign extremist groups.

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The school has released a statement saying it is investigating the incident.

Reports of the teachers' actions came amid Pro-Palestine protests organised by students at their schools following Israel's air and artillery strikes on Gaza, which killed at least 254 Palestinians, including 66 children, and wounded more than 1,900 people.

In one school in Leicester, the headteacher allowed students to hold a “Free Palestine” protest, the Leicester Mercury reported. At the Clapton Girls’ Academy in East London, students protested after teachers allegedly removed posters about the Palestinian struggle from school walls.