Parents at Allerton Grange High School in Leeds have written an open letter to the headteacher vowing to withdraw their children from the school unless he makes amends for recent anti-Palestinian remarks that he made.
Mike Roper has apologised after calling the Palestine flag “a call to arms” and “a symbol to anti-semitism” during an assembly addressing tensions in the Middle East on Wednesday last week.
The statements caused a social media uproar as well as a protest outside the school on Monday.
Here is the letter by parents in full:
Dear Mike Roper,
I write regarding a video circulating of yourself calling the Palestinian flag a “call to arms” and further to your most recent letter dated 23rd May 2021 in response to backlash from parents and concerned individuals.
By telling impressionable young children that a flag is threatening and unsafe or people who support it are such is demonising an entire group of people. I am sure you are well aware of the history of Palestine and should not require a history lesson.
This creates divisions and exacerbates any existing tensions. In such a situation where a head teacher should be looking at bridging peace, educating and supporting pupils, your words are creating tension and painting any supporter of Palestine as anti Semitic, which for most is far from the truth.
Anti-semitism is abhorrent but so is calling any supporter of Palestine a threat, anti-Semitic, and painting them as dangerous. The fact that the flag is being received as anti-Semitic by “some people” as you refer, should then be an opportunity for you to teach the recipient that this is far from a religious dispute but more a humanitarian issue.
Are there not children at the school who have faced oppression or come from countries facing injustice and oppression, what message are you sending to them. Many parents are asylum seekers and have entrusted you with their children at Allerton Grange, who had historically boasted their support for ethnic and religious minorities.
As parents we entrust our children’s education and awareness to you.
There are numerous Human rights violations breached by the apartheid state Israel and In the occupied territories. I reiterate, this is not a Muslim or Jewish issue, and to paint it as such is deeply disturbing, and incredibly misleading.
It makes us wonder, in the future when the oppressor is tried for its war crimes and breaches of countless international and humanitarian laws and rules, you will be remembered as being on the wrong side of history. As did the oppressors during the Civil Rights movement, as did the oppressors during the apartheid and segregation in South Africa.
Further to the letter above mentioned, to many of us, seems to be a simple “I am sorry you got offended by what I said”. You refer to the situation as complex. I reiterate comments from organisations such as the United Nations Human Rights Council, B’tselem and Amnesty, Israel is an apartheid state akin to South Africa from 1948 to 1990s. There is systematic ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people which began shortly after the Second World War, such events are more commonly known as the Nakba, which I am sure you are familiar with.
Unlike the Israeli flag, The Palestinian flag is not being paraded around by the former far right leader of English Defence League and former member of the British National Party, Tommy Robinson. I further note that the Israeli flag is upholstered in your school.
We are already seeing an increase in the number of young people who have been reported, facing disciplinary action or referred to PREVENT for discussing and opposing the latest assault on Palestinians in their schools and classrooms.
We demand the following immediately:
- An independent investigation to the comments of The Head Teacher (I am confident that had these comments been made against Israel, the headteacher would have been suspended pending further investigation.)
- In your most recent letter you welcomed the idea of external speakers – we propose the Human Rights Watch who are a unbiased and reputable organisation.
- To educate the children on this not so complex issue equipping them with the necessary tools and information to form their own opinion and not be judged or scrutinised for doing so.
- We would require students be taught how to protest peacefully without offending people if you feel they are not doing so correctly.
- To teach children how to tackle racism democratically.
- To teach Children about the role of the ICC.
- To provide a platform for organisations such as NaamodUK to provide a balance approach to the occupation and further raise awareness that this is not a religious issue.
- Instead of reporting students to PREVENT, which will significantly hinder their professional future, teach them, as you have been entrusted to do so.
- The dissociation of any organisation and companies that support apartheid state of Israel and are complicit in the erasure of the existence of Palestine.
Failing the above we would have no choice but to remove our children from the school. As parents we feel let down by the school head and we will work with the local councillors and educational authority to make sure first and foremost the safety of the children and to provide a balanced approach to these matters. The children are the voices of the future and if they are not taught to condemn simple human rights issues, such violations are condemned to be repeated.
We look forward to hearing from you addressing the points above please.
An Open Letter from the Community
Last week the school released the following statement about the controversy: