Heated ‘Muslim’ outburst earns headteacher reprimand

Odense headteacher accused of racism was admonishing group of students that had been disrupting class her daughter was teaching

October 30th, 2012 9:04 am| by admin
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The headteacher of an Odense primary school has received an official reprimand after she used racially charged language when shouting at a group of boys who had behaved badly in class.

Poul Anthoniussen, the head of the Odense school district, confirmed that Birgitte Sonsby of Ejerslykkeskolen had been reprimanded for her outburst, which is the mildest sanction she could have received.

"I think she lost her cool," Anthoniussen told the press. "It can happen to anyone given the right circumstances or if you are under pressure. That doesn't make it right for a headteacher, but I can understand the situation."

Almost immediately after she made the comments earlier this month, Sonsby had apologised for shouting, “I’m so bloody tired of you Muslims ruining the teaching lessons,” at a group of disruptive students she had called into her office. She explained her outburst came after the boys started laughing at her, but added that she did not feel it amounted to racism.

Shaib Mansoor, the father of one of the children being admonished and present during the meeting, later reported Sonsby to the police for racism. He subsequently dropped the charges, saying that the media attention had succeeded in creating a debate about the issue.

The head of the school's parents' association then lent the support of parents and teachers to Sonsby, saying that teachers are regularly subject to harrassment at the hands of minority students.

“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.

Julius said he did not approve of 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,” he said.

He added that students involved in the bullying and name-calling “lacked the standards and values needed to succeed in a normal Danish school”.

The case, though, took an unexpected turn when it was revealed that the substitute teacher who lost control of the classroom leading to the original reprimand was Sonsby’s daughter.

Poul Anthoniussen, the head of the Odense school district, said there are no rules that would prohibit Sonsby from hiring her daughter as a substitute, but that her decision to do so was noted in the official reprimand.

After reading about the case, Carsten Halvorsen, from the small town of Assens on Funen, reported Sonsby to the police, asking them to investigate whether the comments amounted to racism.

"If you do not put the brakes on hateful propaganda, it will be devastating for integration in Denmark," he told Fyens Stiftstidene.

Sonsby declined further comment on either the case or her daughter’s employment at the school.

"I have said what I have to say and it is time to look forward," she told Fyens Stiftstidende.

(Photo by Nan Palmero)
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