A Palestinian mother living in London says her son doesn’t want to go to school anymore after facing discrimination for speaking about Palestine and wearing a Palestine flag and badge.
The student’s mother told Socialist Worker her son feels too anxious and stressed to return to Torriano Primary School in Camden.
“It started after 7 October,” she said. “My son came home and said they’d been shown a Newsround news programme in assembly and then told by teachers that the British government supports Israel.
“He knows about the war, what’s happening, and so, of course, he felt confused. We have family in Gaza and across Palestine. He loves his cousins there. They were helping him learn Arabic, and he was helping them learn English.
“He didn’t understand why Palestine wasn’t worth a mention. To him, it’s a place where his family lives, where he’s played and where he’s from.”
She added that, after Israel’s attacks on Gaza, her son has been upset and emotional at school but hasn’t got the support from teachers he needs. “He’s sad. His family are on his mind a lot,” she said. “But the school never contacted me to ask if he was doing alright. I don’t think any teachers asked him if he was OK.”
The mother added that several incidents have meant her son no longer feels safe or welcome at school. “One day his class were drawing flags”, she explained. “Two of his friends decided to draw Palestinian flags to try and cheer him up. He said a teacher disciplined them for it.
“Another day, my son went in wearing a Palestinian flag, and another day, a badge. A teacher told him he couldn’t wear either. When he tries to talk about Palestine with other students, the teachers tell him not to.”
Her son explained to Socialist Worker how these incidents have made him feel. “It’s horrible,” he told Socialist Worker. “It makes me feel like I’m not equal to the other children. I’m proud to be Palestinian, but I’m made to feel like I shouldn’t be at school.”
The boys’ mother added, “Teachers talked to the children about Ukraine. But they won’t talk to them about Palestine.
“He’s been off school because he’s just too distressed. He’s normally a confident and well-liked boy at school. He’s on the student council. Now he’s suffering. It’s heartbreaking. I just want to be a good parent. But I’m struggling to know what to do.
“I just feel so isolated. I feel like other parents are even scared to ask how I am for fear of being called antisemitic.”
Socialist Worker contacted the school to ask what it’s doing to make sure Palestinian students are getting the support they need.
A spokesperson from Torriano Primary School told Socialist Worker, “We are proud to be an inclusive and Unicef Rights Respecting school. It’s because of this we must take a balanced and sensitive approach to world events which are distressing for communities from a range of faiths and backgrounds and have put support in place to help pupils who are affected.”
The case at Torriano Primary school adds to a growing number of students feeling targeted for their support for Palestine. There were large protests outside the Barclay Primary school in Leyton, east London, in December after an eight-year old was punished for wearing a Palestine badge on his coat.
Both cases mean it’s essential that school workers continue to push against attempts by management to silence discussion on Palestine.
It’s right to demand respect for Palestinians and Palestine supporters—and it’s important to protest when those rights are denied.
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