St Augustine’s school racism inquiry must get to bottom of allegations about 'monkey' and 'slave' taunts – Steve Cardownie
What a disappointment then to read in yesterday’s paper that the outcome of the inquiry into the allegations has been delayed as a further ten complaints have been made, adding to those made by 30 students in June. Complaints include claims some students were called “monkey” and “slave” by the very people entrusted to stamp this kind of behaviour out – teachers!
The inquiry by law firm by Shepherd & Wedderburn was to begin no later than August, and its findings were to be published by September 25. A former pupil, Miguel Chiu, who is the pupils’ spokesperson, has said that no such report has been received, leaving him disappointed, and no new date has been set for its release. The council set out its position saying: “The ongoing investigation is an absolute priority to the council and we’ve been keeping the complainants regularly updated as to our progress. Final interviews are currently underway and we will keep those involved updated as to when the final report will be completed and our next steps.”
Notwithstanding the frustration felt by the original complainants, this is a matter of such import that the council has to investigate the allegations thoroughly as the consequences for some members of staff could be very serious. If the claims are substantiated and attributed to certain teachers, then I think their continued employment should not be an option.
A teacher at the school said at the time “I have witnessed parents who have come into the school over issues of racial bullying after the issue has been initially swept under the carpet as ‘normal child fallout’”, which would appear to substantiate further assertions made by pupils that “there is a lack of support from senior leadership” within the school which allows racism to flourish.
I know Councillor Ian Perry, the city’s education convener, very well and I’m sure he will strive to get to the bottom of this by reinforcing the council’s stance that racist behaviour will not be tolerated and that appropriate action will be taken against anyone found to be indulging in this obnoxious behaviour.
Schools have a duty to instil tolerance and respect in pupils to help make them better citizens, equipped with the tools that will allow them to flourish and lead meaningful lives. Edinburgh councillors are all too aware of the potential for racist behaviour to exist in schools elsewhere in the city and have rightly endorsed the education department’s efforts to challenge it wherever it materialises.
It is crucial, therefore, that every effort is made to complete this report within a reasonable timeframe and, if the allegations are found to be true, an example should be set!