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Lessons in hatred and abuse
by Francesca Coleman
As a trainee teacher in an inner-London school in the last two years, I dealt with countless remarks about my religion, ranging from the perplexing to the deeply offensive. After his students drew swastikas all over his classroom, my supervisor said simply: "It's not our job to project our own moral compass on to the students." Had I been any other ethnicity experiencing something similar there would doubtless have been instant outrage and punishment. Sadly, by this point I was used to this kind of reaction.
It began when, mystifyingly, a colleague told students about my religion, and the reasons for my so-called "persistent" absences (for the chagim). Later, other colleagues openly discussed my beliefs with students, without my consent or knowledge. Some were interested, but other pupils subjected me to inappropriate and insulting questions, chants and disruptions. Needless to say, had I wanted to share my private religious beliefs, I would only have done so on my own terms.
I found myself the constant prey of a group of roaming lower schoolers who would verbally abuse me everywhere and anywhere - including in my classroom - with screams of "Hitler! Hitler!" Amazingly, each time I reported an incident, it was ignored. Knowing there would be no consequences, no discipline imposed on them, only encouraged the group. Later, someone scratched "Kill Jews" on to a computer in my classroom. The school got rid of the evidence only after I involved the police.
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