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School head recalls 'horrific' onslaught of hate after manipulated video accusing teacher goes viral

The headteacher of a Black Country school whose staff member was falsely accused of racism has described the onslaught of hate since as the "worst experience" in his career.

Stuart Bathurst executive principal Richard May

Ring doorbell footage of a Stuart Bathurst Catholic High School teacher canvassing for a colleague, Qasim Mughal, standing for the Labour Party in local elections went viral last weekend with fabricated claims that the teacher had used a racial slur about an Asian homeowner.

After independent Mayoral candidate Akhmed Yakoob shared the footage on social media the teacher became the centre of a social media storm which included death threats. A group of parents began demanding her resignation.

Executive principal of the Wednesbury school Richard May described the fallout from the video as 'horrific' and a bombardment of 800 vile messages to him and his staff.

He said: "We were bombarded with abuse. These included death threats, appalling language, threats of violence and an expectation that I/the school should sack [the teacher] immediately. These emails, telephone calls and social media messages were horrific and there were over 800 in total. Even members of our own community became embroiled in the barrage, which looking back is really disappointing."

Due to the rapidly rising racial tensions West Midlands Police investigated the incident and found no wrongdoing, which gave the school the evidence needed to quell anger.

Mr May wrote: "The last few days have been the worst experience of my 24-year career, so if I feel like that, I can’t even imagine how my colleague is feeling at present. As I’m sure all of you can appreciate, I have had to wait a few days until I am in the position to write freely to our community.

Stuart Bathurst Catholic High School. Photo: Google

"When I, as leader of this wonderful school found out about the TikTok late on Bank Holiday Monday, I was confused, I was angry, but most importantly I never doubted my colleague’s version of events. Neither did I doubt Mr Mughal's version of events who was also present, but out of sight on the camera footage.

"This was a member of our staff (Associate Assistant Principal and Lead Practitioner for Mathematics), standing for election who asked friends and colleagues... to support him in his final push for votes.

"Given the nature of the accusations, protocols and policies must be followed both from a school/multi-academy perspective but also from a legal perspective. An impartial investigation commenced immediately on Monday morning which involved school and St John Bosco MultiAcademy staff, along with West Midlands Police."

The headteacher expressed his disappointment at how easily local people were hoodwinked by the social media post.

He said: "People for falling for the manipulated social media post and the clever juxtaposition of the false captions. We have all seen the dangers of social media this week and how quickly people can unfortunately jump to the wrong conclusions and make unfair judgements. I suppose that is what some people want for maximum impact.

"I am horrified by the motives behind the TikTok post and especially the lack of remorse from the people who created it and shared it to over 800,000 people.

"Despite the truth being revealed and [the teacher] being cleared of all allegations, the post is still it out there for all to see, all because of a political agenda that is aimed at dividing communities like ours. We remain united here at Stuart Bathurst Catholic High School. Our community spirit and our Catholic ethos has given us the strength to deal with this terrible chain of events and we pray that it never happens to another individual or community."

Mr May said the teacher at the centre of the storm 'has had her life turned upside down'.

He said: "She hasn’t been able to leave her house. She has been hounded by people pretending to be journalists and has been bombarded with messages of hate – all because she decided she would like to help a friend and colleague with their political campaign for a couple of hours.

"Our attention as a Catholic and Christian community turns wholeheartedly to helping her rebuild her confidence and enable her to heal. I stand firm when I say this, I will not let her career be affected by this horrific event and the attempt to assassinate her character for political gain. For as long as it takes, she will get the support of me, her colleagues within the school, and the wider multi-academy of schools because we are a family, we are a proud multiethnic and faith community, and we must stand together and support her.

"The next few weeks and months will be daunting for [her] and my request to you all is that you support her from the bottom of your heart. [She] will come through this and already in the last 24 hours she has been blown away by the apologies from parents, the supportive messages from our community and also the various press agencies and journalists who have shared the true story, not just locally, but also far and wide."

He added: "I would also like to thank West Midlands Police. Whilst we as a community of staff and leaders were always confident in what we could see, hear and believed, we had to let the police carry out their full investigation and release their statement exonerating [her] of any wrongdoing. I am also really grateful for the support they have provided [her] at her home and also for being a visible presence at our school this week at the start and end of each day."

The teacher had been canvassing in Dudley for the Labour party when she was filmed knocking a door and asking the homeowner who they were voting for. The video shared subsequently on social media included captions of a racial slur.

However, West Midlands Police released a statement confirming officers had viewed the original footage, and found no evidence of the slur.

A police spokesman said: "Following allegations of a racist remark made by a canvasser in Dudley captured on doorbell footage, we have obtained the original audio and examined it closely. We have found no evidence of any racist slurs or language used. The canvasser has received significant abuse as a result of the footage being released on social media, which is distressing.

"She has been fully updated regarding our findings and offered our support."

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