Teachers and parents at an Odense school embroiled in racism allegations face an environment of harrassment and verbal abuse at the hands of minority students, according to the head of the school's parent's association.
“The students behave in a completely unacceptable manner,” said Peter Julius in a letter written to Fyens Stiftstidene newspaper on behalf of school staff and the school board.
It is this tense environment, Julius claims, that contributed to an incident in which Birgitte Sonsby, the headteacher of the school, was reported to the police and still faces possible disciplinary action from the council after reportedly using racially charged language when reprimanding a group of boys who had disrupted her class.
“I’m so bloody tired of you Muslims ruining the teaching lessons,” Sonsby reportedly said to the boys.
Sonsby later apologised to the families for her choice of words, but said that she didn’t believe that her outburst was racist.
“A situation arose in the classroom and some children needed to be reprimanded. They started laughing at me and I lost control. I said some things that I deeply regret and I apologise,” Sonsby told Fyens Stiftstidende.
Julius said that he did not approve of the Sonsby's choice of words, but understood her frustration that a small group of students could disrupt an entire class.
“We are not racists. But we must have the nerve to stand up and be honest about what is happening within the school’s walls,” said Julius.
He added that students involved in the bullying and name-calling “lacked the standards and values needed to succeed in a normal Danish school”.
By writing the letter, Julius said he hoped to encouge something to be done about behavioural problems and suggested that the group of minority currently concentrated at Ejerslykkeskolen could be broken up and distributed throughout other schools in the area.
Stina Willumsen (Socialistisk Folkeparti), who heads Odense City Council's children and youth committee, believes closer co-operation with the parents of minority children should be the first step.
“I think that it's very much about the parents,” she told Fyens Stiftstidende, ”Students who have difficulty accepting the school’s values need better support from home.”
Sonsby, who had no comment, is scheduled to continue be interviewed by the superintendant of schools in Odense pending a decision.