Two more staff are suspended from Batley blasphemy row school

EXCLUSIVE: Two more staff are suspended at blasphemy row school over claims they KNEW RE teacher was going to show pupils ‘offensive’ image of the Prophet Muhammad

  • Batley Grammar School RE teacher sparked outrage among Muslim parents when he allegedly showed pupils a cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad 
  • Crowds of angry Muslims gathered at the school gates last week as the teacher was suspended and the school was shut down before Easter 
  • It has since emerged that two more staff have been suspended while the school investigates the incident, bringing the total to three
  • A source at the school said blasphemy was on the curriculum but that teacher was not authorised to show pupils the cartoon
  • The source confirmed the image was from French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo showing the Prophet wearing a bomb instead of a turban on his head
  • Headteacher Gary Kibble apologised to parents for the ‘inappropriate’ use of the cartoons

Two more teachers have been suspended over a cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad being shown to pupils at Batley Grammar School, MailOnline can reveal. 

It brings to three the total number of teachers being investigated for the incident in which the controversial cartoon was shown during an RE lesson. 

All three staff at the school in West Yorkshire were suspended at the same time when a pupil complained to their parents.

Furious protesters rallied outside the school gates for two days last week after a teacher produced the cartoon as part of a lesson on blasphemy. 

The Batley Grammar School teacher sparked fury by allegedly showing pupils cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in a RE lesson. Pictured: Protesters outside the school on Friday

It prompted a wave of protests last week with those taking part in a prayer outside the school in Batley, West Yorkshire. The school was shut down and the unnamed teacher was suspended 

The teacher, in his late 20s, who is not being named, has gone into hiding with his partner and their four children after receiving death threats with head teacher Gary Kibble quick to announce that he had been suspended pending an investigation.

But the school has attempted to keep the involvement of two other teachers quiet to fend off criticisms of a wider failure in the way the controversial lesson was delivered. Both are described as being experienced in the teaching profession.

A school source told MailOnline that the blasphemy row had been part of the curriculum, but that Mr Kibble and the school hierarchy had not authorised showing of the cartoon. A Muslim pupil was offended by the lesson and their parents complained.

A source confirmed to MailOnline: ‘Two other teachers are also being investigated but the school has been trying to keep it secret because they don’t want attention being drawn to the fact that this went beyond the actions of one person.

‘They were not in the class at time but were aware that offensive material was going to be used, it is claimed.’

The source also confirmed that the cartoon shown to pupils which led to the row was from the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo depicting the Prophet Muhammad wearing a bomb instead of a turban on his head.

The source added: ‘Blasphemy features on the school curriculum and images have been used before by teachers. But not this one. This was the first time that this particular image was shown during a lesson. 

Protesters spoke to the Press during demonstrations at the school gates during the furore 

The French teacher beheaded for showing pupils Prophet cartoon  

The family of the Batley Grammar School teacher at the centre of the Prophet Muhammad picture row fear that he may meet the same fate as French man Samuel Paty, who was beheaded close to a school where he taught outside Paris.

Mr Paty, 47, a history and geography teacher was targeted for showing cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad to his students and was killed in October 2020 outside the gates of the school in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, north of the French capital.

His killing stunned France and led to an outpouring of support at memorial ceremonies and marches around the country with President Emmanuel Macron hailing him as ‘a quiet hero’ and ‘the face of the Republic.’ He also posthumously granted the teacher France’s highest civilian award, the Légion d’Honneur.

Mr Paty’s killer, Abdullakh Anzorov, 18 was shot dead by police shortly after the attack.

But seven people, including two students and a parent of one of Mr Paty’s pupils, were detained in the days following the killing.

Prosecutors later revealed that said six of the suspects had been charged with complicity in a terrorist murder and placed under judicial investigation, which is continuing.

As he had done in similar lessons on free speech in previous years, Mr Paty warned students that he was about to show a depiction of the Prophet Muhammad. He said anyone who thought they might be offended could close their eyes.

Two teenage students, who cannot be named for legal reasons, were allegedly paid around €300 (£270; $355) by the killer to identify Mr Paty outside the school.

The killer told the students he wanted to ‘hit’ and ‘humiliate’ Mr Paty and ‘make him apologise for the cartoon of the Prophet [Muhammad].’ 

Mr Paty’s funeral was attended by some 400 guests, including senior political figures while thousands attended rallies in his honour around the country.

Last December, Anzorov was buried in his native Chechnya with around 200 mourners attending the service and hailing him as a ‘lion of Islam.’

‘This picture was not part of the approved teaching materials and we do not know why the teacher chose it. It appears, there were no proper checks in place.

‘There is nothing to suggest that either of them used this particular image themselves in lessons, but they knew what was going on and it points to a breakdown in the system.’

The source added that in previous years, depictions of the Prophet Muhammad have been shown during lessons on blasphemy, but teachers often forewarn their pupils about it and allow those who may be offended to leave the class.

The source added: ‘It’s an important subject but it’s been handled far more sensitively until now. Clearly something has gone horribly wrong on this occasion and this is what the investigation will attempt to establish so that it does not happen again.’

For Muslims, any depiction of the Prophet Muhammad, or any of the other prophets of the faith is strictly forbidden.

Pictures – as well as statues – are thought to encourage the worship of idols, which is strictly prohibited. But there is no specific ruling in the Koran explicitly against depicting the Prophet with many experts claiming that it stems from the Hadiths, the book about his life and sayings.

Batley Multi Academy Trust, which runs Batley Grammar School has announced an independent investigation, which is set to begin on April 12 and aims to conclude by the end of May.

An inquiry panel is being established to drill down into the ‘context’ of the episode.

All three suspended teachers will be grilled about their role in the affair and could face possible dismissal, if it finds that they broke rules on how lessons should be delivered.

The names of teaching staff have been removed from the school’s website to prevent the three teachers from being identified and other teachers being targeted by those angry at recent events. 

The Trust said in a statement: ‘We understand everyone will want clarity as soon as possible.’

It added: ‘We’re grateful for the constructive engagement with all our stakeholders over the last few days with regard to Batley Grammar, one of the schools within our trust.

‘We believe the right way forward is for an independent investigation to review the context in which the materials (which caused offence) were used, and to make recommendations in relation to the Religious Studies curriculum so that the appropriate lessons can be learned, and action taken, where necessary.’

The father of the RE teacher who showed the cartoon told MailOnline earlier this week how his son fears he will be murdered – and feels that he can never go back to his old life.

The father said: ‘He is worried that he and his family are all going to be killed.

‘He knows that he’s not going to be able to return to work or live in Batley. It’s just going to be too dangerous for him and his family.

‘Look what happened to the teacher in France who was killed for doing the same thing. Eventually they will get my son and he knows this. His whole world has been turned upside down. He’s devastated and crushed.

‘When he starts speaking, he just breaks down and cries. He’s become an emotional wreck.’

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