The prestigious American School in London is in turmoil over concerns about the content of diversity education and after revelations about a staff meeting that sparked antisemitism allegations.
The headteacher of the school – the most expensive day school in Britain, which counts several famous alumni and children of numerous celebrities – has resigned well short of the end of her ten-year term, after complaints were made by parents about the content of diversity education at the school, both to the media and directly to Campaign Against Antisemitism.
Concerns centred around the teaching of “critical race theory” and other controversial ideas, including “white privilege”. Campaign Against Antisemitism has received concerning reports about the school apparently teaching that Jews are part of a privileged elite. A “Privilege Power” chart was reportedly disseminated, which appeared to show Jews just below Protestants and Catholics at the upper end of the “Spirituality-Religion” segment of the chart.
The introduction of racially-segregated after-school clubs reportedly upset numerous parents, many of whom are American.
In addition, allegations have arisen about a staff meeting in which the words “Nazi”, “swastika”, “Hitler” and “skinheads” were used by faculty members during what was described as a heated conversation about how some parents have reacted to the diversity curriculum.
The school has denied that the inflammatory terms were used to describe parents but has not clarified in what context the terms were used. A spokesperson for the school did concede that remarks made during the meeting “could cause offence to the community,” with numerous Jewish families sending their children to the school.
Concerningly, the school’s statement noted that “There were questions asked about whether the response to racism is always as strong and immediate as the response to antisemitism.” This suggestion by one teacher, apparently in connection with parents, caused offence among colleagues, who passed on their concerns to parents and trustees.
Although the headteacher has resigned, concerns remain that the culture and curriculum are the product of wider thinking among senior staff.
A spokesperson for the school said: “Teachers did not refer to parents by any of the words [listed above]. However, [the headteacher] and the school were concerned that the question contrasting the responses to racism and antisemitism could cause offence to members of the community, and this was addressed immediately. We are committed to building and sustaining a diverse, equitable and inclusive school community and firmly believe this will lead to a better future for all our children.”
A spokesperson for Campaign Against Antisemitism said: “We have been receiving disturbing reports about the American School in London. There are claims that terms like ‘Nazis’ were used at a staff meeting. Although the school denies this extreme language referred to Jewish parents, it apparently does not dispute that these terms did appear in their discussion, which allegedly also featured language suggesting that antisemitism and racism are different. The school must tackle this problem suitably forcefully and seriously.”
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