March 2, 2023 Faith Matters

Minister condemns death threats against pupils who damaged Koran

An Education minister has condemned reported death threats against pupils who allegedly damaged a copy of the Koran as “totally unacceptable”.

Minister for Schools Nick Gibb has said his department is working with Kettlethorpe High School in Wakefield, West Yorkshire, after it suspended four students over the incident.

A copy of the Islamic text was brought to school by a Year 10 pupil reportedly as part of a dare last week, and its cover was slightly torn while smears of dirt were found on some pages.

Headteacher Tudor Griffiths said initial investigations suggest there was “no malicious intent by those involved”.

On Thursday, Mr Gibb condemned reported death threats against the pupils, adding that there is “no blasphemy law” in the UK and schools should be supporting “British values” including “individual liberty”.

He said: “My first priority is always the wellbeing of children and young people.

“The death threats reportedly issued against the pupils are totally unacceptable.

“There is no blasphemy law in this country and schools should be promoting the fundamental British values of the respect for rule of law, individual liberty and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs.

“The Department for Education is working closely with the school, and I will write to the headteacher and local authority to offer my support.

“Our guidance for schools on how to manage suspensions is clear, stating that all decisions should be reasonable, fair, and proportionate.

“In circumstances where parents feel discipline has not met these standards, they can follow the school’s complaints procedure and raise the issue with the school’s governors or the local authority.”

The school’s headteacher said he first became aware of the incident on February 23, adding that the students were suspended to ensure “they understand why their actions were unacceptable”.

Mr Griffiths said: “We would like to reassure all our community that the holy book remains fully intact and that our initial inquiries indicate there was no malicious intent by those involved.

“However, we have made it very clear that their actions did not treat the Koran with the respect it should have, so those involved have been suspended and we will be working with them to ensure they understand why their actions were unacceptable.”

“Kettlethorpe High School is an inclusive school where we want all our pupils to feel safe and secure,” he added.

“Understanding and respecting each other is a fundamental part of who we are and we are coming together and learning from this.

“With the support of our local Muslim community leaders, we are continuing to investigate thoroughly.”

He said the school’s leaders had met with local Muslim community leaders, councillors and police to share the information they had.

West Yorkshire Police has been contacted for comment.