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Proposal to address harassment of teachers welcomed by school leaders

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Last Updated on March 26, 2024 by Robert C. Hoopes

A government-commissioned review has recommended the establishment of a cohesion and conflict unit to support teachers facing threats and harassment while carrying out their duties. The review was prompted by the case of a religious studies teacher in West Yorkshire who endured intimidation and abuse after showing a drawing from Charlie Hebdo in class.

Despite being cleared of intentionally causing offense, the teacher suffered from PTSD and even contemplated suicide due to the relentless campaign against him. The review criticized the school for prioritizing appeasing protesters over supporting the teacher, leading to calls for the new unit to offer guidance, training, resources, and support for affected teachers.

In addition to the proposed cohesion and conflict unit, the review also suggested the implementation of buffer zones around schools to prevent protests directly outside gates. While school leaders have expressed support for the unit, questions remain on how it will integrate with current support systems.

On a related note, the government has appointed a university free speech tsar to safeguard freedom of speech and academic freedom. New legislation will require English universities to actively promote free speech, with potential sanctions such as fines for failing to do so. Concerns have surfaced about universities relying heavily on fees from international students, raising worries about potential compromises on free speech for financial gain.

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The Office for Students (OfS) will investigate any complaints and may penalize universities that fail to uphold their duties regarding free speech. The Batley Multi Academy Trust has defended its actions in the aforementioned case and disputed the review’s portrayal of events.

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