Police Patrols at School After Principal Said Palestinian Flag-Waving Seen as ‘Call to Arms’, Antisemitic

Pro-Palestine demonstrators hold placards as they gather to march in central London on May 22, 2021. (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP) (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images)
JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images

Police were forced to monitor a protest at a West Yorkshire high school after the principal suggested that the presence of the Palestinian flag at the school could be seen as “a call to arms and seen as a message of support for anti-Semitism”. Following the “barrage” of criticism, the school leader apologised.

Headteacher Mike Roper had live-streamed an assembly on Wednesday to Allerton Grange School in Leeds, allegedly following school staff removing posters bearing the Palestinian flag and confiscating pupils’ similarly decorated lanyards.

Attempting to explain the removal of the political images, Mr Roper said in comments which went viral on social media and were reported by The Telegraph: “By using a symbol such as the Palestinian flag that message is lost because for some people they see that flag and they feel threatened, they feel unsafe and they worry because for other people that flag is seen as a call to arms and seen as a message of support for anti-Semitism, for being anti-Jewish, and it was never meant to be like that in the first place.”

The assembly came after a spike in antisemitic attacks and violent pro-Palestinian protests in the UK during the conflict between Israel and Hamas.

The remarks sparked protest and a petition calling for the headteacher’s “instant removal” from the school, which the latest Ofsted schools inspection report described as “multicultural”.

Monday afternoon saw a protest of around 20 pro-Palestinian activists, including parents, outside of the school. The newspaper reported that calls for the protest had been shared in pro-Palestinian Facebook groups.

West Yorkshire Police confirmed: “Officers from the local neighbourhood policing team monitored a protest outside the school this afternoon. There were no issues.”

School staff were forced to station themselves outside of the school on Monday morning to ensure the entry of other staff and pupils. One parent told The Telegraph that protesters tried to recruit the pupils to join them. The school also had to resort to speaking with Leeds City Council all weekend to discuss the “unrest” in the community.

Mr Roper wrote to parents on Sunday night saying that he was “deeply sorry” for his remarks and that a “specialist” speaker would give a lecture on the issue.

The school also signalled that much criticism had come via social media, writing: “For those of you who have witnessed the social media barrage against the school this weekend, I am sorry for any distress this has caused you or your family.”

The incident is the latest British school culture war to be sparked between the student body or community and educators in recent months in multicultural parts of the UK.

In March, hundreds of pupils at the “diverse” Pimlico Academy in Westminster, London, protested over what they claimed was a “discriminatory” uniform policy, which allegedly banned hairstyles that obstruct the views of others — meaning afros — and colourful hijabs. The children also called for the union flag to be taken down from outside of the school, and during the protests held banners reading, “Black Lives Matter”.

Pimlico Academy’s headteacher Daniel Smith eventually capitulated, reversing the uniform restrictions and pledging to review the flying of Britain’s national flag. Smith resigned from his post last week.

March also saw a religious education teacher suspended from another diverse school in Batley, West Yorkshire, for showing a caricature of the Islamic prophet Mohammed during a lesson, amidst ongoing protests from parents and community members.

The teacher was forced to go into hiding and was under police protection, with his father fearing he would meet a similar fate to history teach Samuel Paty, who an Islamist teen Chechen refugee beheaded in France for showing a Mohammed cartoon during a lesson on free speech. The terrorist was inspired to kill following a social media campaign triggered by an offended parent.

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