The UK’s largest education union, the National Education Union, has been criticised for what some suggest is a weak response to the on-going row over depictions of Muhammad at a Batley school.
The row broke out last week when a mob of Muslim protesters violated coronavirus lockdown restrictions to demonstrate outside of Batley Grammar School, calling for the sacking of a Religious Studies teacher who displayed a cartoon of the Muslim prophet in a March 22 lesson.
The teacher was promptly suspended and has since gone into hiding with police protection amid death threats, with his father saying: “Eventually, they will get my son and he knows this. His whole world has been turned upside down. He’s devastated and crushed.”
On Friday the National Education Union said: “The school is investigating matters using internal formal processes and until this has been concluded it would not be appropriate to make any further comment.”
And today, the union’s joint general secretary Dr Mary Bousted said: “The NEU is fully supporting its members at Batley Grammar as the school investigation proceeds. For their sake, for their families, for staff & students we want this to happen in a calm atmosphere. We are working to resolve rather than inflame. We urge others to do so as well.”
But the response has been criticised by some for its failure to come down decisively on the side of the accused teacher, who has suffered death threats and who has seen his professional life upended by an intolerant Muslim mob.
“This does not read like a message of support to the teacher concerned” said one social media user, prompting Dr Bousted to reply: “We do not need to give messages. We are in constant contact with the member concerned. And we are working, constructively, and quietly, to resolve the situation in the most effective way possible.”
Responding to the initial statement from the union, Tory MP and former teacher Brendan Clarke-Smith said: “Given that its primary function is to defend teachers, you would have thought it would be prepared to say that threats are unacceptable.”
Writing in the Spectator, Joanna Rossiter opined: “Despite offering ‘support’ to the suspended teacher, Britain’s largest teaching union the NEU is yet to condemn his treatment, saying that while the school is investigating the incident ‘it would not be appropriate to make any further comment.’
She goes on to declare it “tragic” that they’ve failed to clearly speak out “when a member of their profession’s life is genuinely and imminently at risk”.