A teenage schoolgirl was arrested by police for racism after refusing to sit with a group of Asian students because some of them did not speak English. Codie Stott's family claim she was forced to spend three-and-a-half hours in a police cell after she was reported by her teachers.
The 14-year-old - who was released without charge - said it had been a simple matter of commonsense and accused the school and police of an over-the-top reaction.
The incident happened in the same local education authority where a ten-year-old boy was prosecuted earlier this year for calling a schoolfriend racist names in the playground, a move branded by a judge "political correctness gone mad."
Codie was attending a GCSE science class at Harrop Fold High School in Worsley, Greater Manchester, when the incident happened. The teenager had not been in school the day before due to a hospital appointment and had missed the start of a project, so the teacher allocated her a group to sit with.
"She said I had to sit there with five Asian pupils," said Codie yesterday. "Only one could speak English, so she had to tell that one what to do so she could explain in their language. Then she sat me with them and said 'Discuss'."
According to Codie, the five - four boys and a girl - then began talking in a language she didn't understand, thought to be Urdu, so she went to speak to the teacher. "I said 'I'm not being funny, but can I change groups because I can't understand them?' But she started shouting and screaming, saying 'It's racist, you're going to get done by the police'."
Codie said she went outside to calm down where another teacher found her and, after speaking to her class teacher, put her in isolation for the rest of the day. A complaint was made to a police officer based full-time at the school, and more than a week after the incident on September 26 she was taken to Swinton police station and placed under arrest.
"They told me to take my laces out of my shoes and remove my jewellery, and I had my fingerprints and photograph taken," said Codie. "It was awful." After questioning on suspicion of committing a section five racial public order offence, her mother Nicola says she was placed in a bare cell for three-and-a-half hours then released without charge. She only returned to lessons this week and has been put in a different science class.
Headteacher Dr Antony Edkins said: "An allegation of a serious nature was made concerning a racially motivated remark by one student towards a group of Asian students new to the school and new to the country. We aim to ensure a caring and tolerant attitude towards people and pupils of all ethnic backgrounds and will not stand for racism in any form."
Fewer than two per cent of pupils at Harrop Fold come from an ethnic minority, which begs the question - why were there five of them in the same Science set, and why were they all placed in the same discussion group?
The school had the worst GCSE results in the entire Salford LEA last year with just 15 per cent of pupils achieving five good passes including English and maths, a third of the national average. Since being placed in special measures, Ofsted inspectors say it has improved, not least as a result of Dr Edkins's "outstanding" leadership.
Last night Robert Whelan, deputy director of the Civitas think-tank, said: "It's obviously common sense that pupils who don't speak English cause problems for other pupils and for teachers. I'm sure this sort of thing happens all the time, but it's a sad reflection on the school if they can't deal with it without involving the police. A lot of these arrests don't result in prosecutions - they aim is to frighten us into self-censorship until we watch everything we say."
The GOS used to be a teacher many years ago, and can make a pretty good guess at how this went down. 14-year-old girls can be quite charming and a pleasure to teach, but some of them can also be right little mares. He's not suggesting that Codie is of the equestrienne variety, of course …
Reading between the lines it's entirely possible that she threw something of a strop, and may well have expressed herself … erm … in an ill-advised manner. But girls and boys do that every day in schools up and down the country without the police being involved, without getting locked up in a cell for hours, and especially without their fingerprints being taken and entered in the national database. Head Teachers should have the power, the will and the skill to sort this kind of thing out themselves - we are talking, by definition, about children here, and children also by definition cannot and should not be expected to have access to the same levels of restraint, sensitivity or common-sense we expect from adults.
If children are expected to have these qualities in full measure, why do we find it necessary to protect them, vet those who teach them, monitor them, test them, and censor their diets? Why? Because they're kids, that's why, and they don't know enough to do these things for themselves. Yet when something like this occurs we suddenly expect them to behave like adults and criminalise them if they don't!
Our schools, our police, our local authorities and the pundits in the racial industry need to make up their minds. If Codie Stott is a child, then she behaved childishly and should be dealt with, in school, by teachers, in a suitable manner for an errant child. If she's expected to behave like an adult, then she's old enough to smoke if she wants, drink if she wants, get pregnant if she wants, eat what she wants and not be told who to sit with.
And there is, of course, a bottom line to all this. And the bottom line is that Codie Stott and all the other children in our schools have a right to be taught in English.
… and in the same issue of the Daily Mail Online, there was this …
A Muslim teacher who insisted on wearing a veil in class has been suspended after the children complained they could not understand what she was saying. Aishah Azmi was told she could wear the veil in the corridors and the staffroom, but had to remove it while teaching. She refused, saying it was part of her cultural and religious identity.
But children at the junior school in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, said they found English lessons hard to follow because they could not see Miss Azmi's lips move.
The Muslim Council of Britain (to its great credit) criticised the teacher for insisting she had to keep her face covered, saying that under Islamic law women were not required to wear a headscarf, let alone a veil, in the presence of young children.
Miss Azmi is now taking her employer, Kirklees Council, to an employment tribunal. It will rule on her case later this month. A council source said "It is ridiculous. How can you teach English to young children with a veil over your face? The children themselves were complaining. It is about what's best for the children."
Many of the 529 boys and girls aged seven to 11 at Headfield Church of England Junior School are from ethnic minorities and English is not their first language, reinforcing the need for clear English teaching. Council education spokesman Jim Dodds said: "This is nothing to do with religion. We accepted the veil could be worn anywhere else in school, but not in the classroom."
The GOS finds this case rather intriguing - he had been expecting to hear of teachers complaining about pupils wearing masks, not the other way around. The GOS can't imagine how he would have coped if faced with masked children in class. How could you even mark the register with any certainty, for a start?
… and this …
10-year-old Ryan Stupples was hauled out of the dining hall at Lunsford Primary School in Kent because his packed lunch was too unhealthy. He was made to eat his lunch in the head teacher Malcolm Goddard's office.
The lunch, which included a ham sandwich, fruit, a piece of cake, a packet of mini cheese biscuits and a bottle of water, was banned because it contained two snacks.
Malcolm Goddard said "We take healthy eating very seriously and everyone is aware of our new policies. A letter was sent to parents at the beginning of term saying packed lunches must contain no more than two snacks". The school said the letter was based on health guidelines issued by the Department for Education and Skills.
If we insist on being petty (and it sounds as though the school was, so who are we to differ?) there is first the question of what was actually in Ryan's lunchbox. The letter said no more than two snacks. Which were the snacks, then? The cake and the cheese biscuits? What about the third one? Was it the fruit? - but aren't we supposed to eat five portions of fruit a day? Fruit can't be a snack, then, can it? So it must have been the water. That makes a lot of sense.
But then there's Mr.Goddard the head teacher. How many times have we heard this sort of thing? - "we sent out a letter, everyone was aware of our policies, so no-one can complain". The fact is, Malcolm, if your policies are rubbish there's plenty to complain about. Making a policy (or in your case borrowing it from someone else so you can hide behind them when questioned) and then enforcing it with total, mindless rigidity is the mark of a small-minded man with too much power.
… and this …
Council bosses have spent £10,000 in a bid to establish who baaed like a sheep during a planning meeting. That's how much it has cost Havering council, based at Romford, Essex, in the last 12 months for a 300-page report into the bizarre incident which occurred during an application by a farm in Rainham to build a mobile home on its site - where they keep rare breeds of sheep and horses - to stop vandals and intruders. A male councillor impersonated the sheep during the hearing in September last year.
As a result outraged councillor Jeff Tucker, who represents Rainham and Wennington Residents, reported the Regulatory Services Committee to the Standards Board for England. A month later the Standards Board referred the case back to the council. Officers have been gathering evidence ever since. The suspects have been narrowed down to four councillors. They will be quizzed by Havering's standards hearings sub-committee on 22 November. The council source added: "It has probably cost £10,000 in officers' time and solicitors' fees for this insane investigation."
Councillor Tucker (note the graceful restraint with which we avoid the obvious comment) is no doubt proud that he has brought this heinous abuse to public attention. And I'm sure his constituents are really pleased to be represented by someone with such a fine sense of proportion.
But what about the sheep? Nobody's mentioned the sheep! This kind of behaviour is deeply offensive to sheep. The noise they make is not an appropriate subject for humour and ridicule anywhere, let alone in Havering Council offices. We clearly need an extension to racial abuse legislation to cover those who, through no fault of their own, are not in a position to defend themselves.
The GOS says: Makes you think, doesn't it? Either the Daily Mail is a muck-raking, bigoted rag or we're living in a deeply flaky society. Or both …
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