DETECTIVES are investigating an alleged hate crime in which a university student was subjected to a string of homophobic slurs by pupils from a top Edinburgh high school.
Masters student Tyler Thompson, 27, said he had been left “heartbroken” by the incident, which happened on Tuesday and involved a group of pupils from St Thomas of Aquin’s High School.
The incident unfolded outside a Sainsbury’s outlet on Simpson Loan and police said patrols would be stepped up in the area.
Mr Thompson, who is studying counselling and psychotherapy at Edinburgh University, said he was shocked by what happened and was “fearful” it could happen again.
He said the incident involved around 30 students but had been instigated by a smaller group of about four or five as he went to enter the supermarket at lunchtime.
He described seeing the students mucking around and throwing food but when he asked them to stop was then subjected to a torrent of homophobic verbal abuse.
The pupils made derogatory remarks about his hair – which is currently dyed pink – and his American accent, he added.
He said: “I was just minding my own business, walking into Sainsbury’s. They were throwing food at each other and some almost hit me and I said OK guys, what’s going on – please stop.
“They said we don’t have to listen to you. They heard my American accent and said ‘go back to your country’.
“I grew up in Texas and was never treated this way. It made me feel horrible. The entire time insults were being thrown at me.”
Mr Thompson said one pupil did come in after him to apologise and that he had been “really touched” by the gesture.
He later spoke to the school’s headteacher on the phone and said he was offered an apology.
St Thomas of Aquin’s is one of 23 high schools under the city council’s remit.
A council spokesperson said: “As soon as the school was made aware of the allegation staff gathered information to check if any pupils were involved.
“The headteacher contacted the police and has personally been in touch with the complainant to apologise.
“The school does not tolerate behaviour of this kind and is co-operating fully with police inquiries.”
A spokesman for Police Scotland said: “Police in Edinburgh are investigating after a 27-year-old man was harassed by a group of youths at a supermarket in Simpson Loan sometime between 12pm and 1pm on Tuesday, October 3.
“During the incident offensive comments were made towards the victim and this matter is being treated as a hate crime.
“Offences of this nature will not be tolerated and inquiries are ongoing to identify those responsible.
“There will be additional patrols in the area and we will be working with the local schools to raise awareness that this behaviour is totally unacceptable.
“Anyone with information is asked to come forward.”