Lucy Ballinger, Daily Mail (London), February 9, 2010
A Christian teacher yesterday claimed he was forced out of his job after complaining that Muslim pupils as young as eight hailed the September 11 hijackers as heroes.
Nicholas Kafouris, 52, is suing his former school for racial discrimination.
He told a tribunal that he had to leave his £30,000-a-year post because he would not tolerate the ‘racist’ and ‘anti-Semitic’ behaviour of Year 4 pupils.
The predominantly Muslim youngsters openly praised Islamic extremists in class and described the September 11 terrorists as ‘heroes and martyrs’.
One pupil said: ‘Don’t touch me, you’re a Christian’ when he brushed against him.
Others said: ‘We want to be Islamic bombers when we grow up’, and ‘The Christians and Jews are our enemies–you too because you’re a Christian’.
Mr Kafouris, a Greek Cypriot, taught for 12 years at Bigland Green Primary School in Tower Hamlets, East London.
According to Ofsted ‘almost all’ its 465 pupils are from ethnic minorities and a vast proportion do not speak English as a first language.
The teacher claims racial discrimination by the school, its headmistress and her assistant head after they failed to take action about the comments made by pupils to him.
He said there was a change in attitude of the pupils after the atrocities of September 11, 2001. They told him: ‘We hate the Christians’ and ‘We hate the Jews’, despite his attempts to stop them.
He said he filled out a Racist Incident Reporting Sheet but claimed headmistress Jill Hankey dismissed his concerns.
In a statement submitted to the Central London Employment Tribunal he said: ‘Miss Hankey proceeded to excuse and justify the pupil’s behaviour, conduct and remarks to me as if I had no right to be offended by the child’s remarks and conduct.
‘Amongst Miss Hankey’s justifications for the child’s remarks, she said, “If the child was older, say 15, I might take it more seriously. He’s only nine–he’s only doing it to wind you up”.’
He added: ‘I felt the head’s behaviour and conduct towards me amounted to direct religious discrimination. I was intimidated in the way she spoke to me which indicated “Don’t come back with such issues again”.’
Mr Kafouris, a bachelor, said the comments became more frequent after the head did nothing about the initial incidents.
‘In late November and December 2006, a number of unacceptable and blunt racist, anti-Semitic and anti-Christian remarks were being made by various children in Year 4 where I taught, such as, “The Twin Tower bombers are heroes and martyrs”.
‘Some children were expressing delight at the death and killing of people of other cultures and religions.
‘In the last week of November 2006 a child was talking about stabbing another child and I told him this was dangerous talk and that a lawyer had recently been stabbed by teenagers. His reply was, “I’m glad that man died”. “Why?” I asked. “Because he’s a Christian and English and we’re Muslim”.’
He claimed that during a religious education lesson about Jonah and the whale, one of the pupils asked if Jonah was a Jew, before shouting: ‘I hate the Jews, they’re our enemies.’
Mr Kafouris said he again tried to speak to Miss Hankey about it. ‘The head’s response was hostile and offensive again. The very first thing she said to me was, “Oh, you again! You’re the only teacher that reports these things! Nobody else does!”
‘Four times she repeated, “It’s because of your lack of discipline that they’re saying these things”.’
Mr Kafouris was signed off with stress by his GP at the end of February 2007 after assistant head Margaret Coleman warned him not to challenge the pupils in class about their remarks.
He says the lack of support from the school has made him clinically depressed and unable to work. He was sacked in April last year.
The case continues.