A teacher claims he has been sacked for reprimanding pupils who made racist remarks about his being a Christian. Nicholas Kafouris said he lost his £30,000-a-year post because he would not tolerate the ‘openly racist’ behaviour of pupils as young as eight.
He said the predominantly Muslim youngsters openly praised Islamic extremists in class, and hailed the September 11 terrorists as ‘heroes and martyrs’.
Greek-born Mr Kafouris, 40, taught for more than ten years at Bigland Green Primary in Tower Hamlets, East London, where according to the most recent Ofsted report ‘almost all’ the 465 pupils are from ethnic minorities and a vast proportion do not speak English as a first language. He is taking the school, its headmistress and assistant head to an employment tribunal where he will claim he was forced out after highlighting the rise in racism among pupils. In 2006, said Mr Kafouris, he brushed against a boy while giving him a book. ‘He said rather brusquely to me, “Don’t touch me, you’re a Christian”. I found this very offensive.’
Later that year, he said children aged eight and nine in his class praised the suicide bombers in the 9/11 attacks. ‘In late November and December 2006, many various unacceptable and openly racist, anti-Semitic and anti-Christian remarks were being made by many and various children in Year 4,’ he said. ‘These included, “We want to be Islamic bombers when we grow up”, “the Twin Towers bombers are heroes and martyrs”, “we hate the Jews” and “we hate the Christians”.’
And in January 2007, he claims some pupils ‘expressed delight’ that a child had died when a wall collapsed on him in London. When asked why, he said one of the children replied: ‘Because he’s English.’ The following month, during a religious education lesson about Jonah and the whale, he claims one of the pupils asked if Jonah was a Jew, before shouting: ‘I hate the Jews, they’re our enemies.’
Mr Kafouris says he completed ‘Racist Incident Reporting Sheets’ and notified headmistress Jill Hankey in writing about each incident. But he claims his concerns were ignored because she wanted to maintain the school’s ‘good’ Ofsted rating. Mr Kafouris, who is unmarried and has no children, was also reprimanded for handling a discussion about religion with a child ‘inappropriately’, which he denies. He says assistant head Margaret Coleman accused him of shouting at pupils and telling them Muslims had produced suicide bombers - claims he rejects.
‘I believe after I complained to the head about the racist and religious discrimination incidents, I suffered victimisation,’ he says. 'I also suffered less favourable treatment and incurred harassment by the head and assistant head. ‘The two people above created an intimidating, hostile, degrading, threatening, humiliating and offensive environment for me at my work.’ Mr Kafouris says the way he was treated brought on stress and depression, and that he was forced to take time off work. He was finally dismissed because of his absence, on April 30 this year.
A spokesman for Tower Hamlets Council, on behalf of the school, said: ‘The governing body stands by its decision and we believe all the correct procedures were followed.’