Parents back headmistress of £40,000-a-year Kent girls’ boarding school in racism row

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Samantha Price, head of Benenden School, used the term during a speech on Black History Month to show how language around black people had changed

Samantha Price, head of Benenden School, used the term during a speech on Black History Month to show how language around black people had changed 

Parents have backed the headmistress of a £40,000-a-year Kent girls’ boarding school after students demanded she apologise for using the word ‘negro’ in a school assembly.

Samantha Price, head of Benenden School, which Princess Anne attended, used the term during a speech on Black History Month to show how language around black people had changed. 

Afterwards she received complaints from some senior girls who claimed negro was as offensive as the n-word and her use of it could make pupils think they could do the same. 

In response, she said: ‘The original name contains an offensive word and by using this word in this context I was attempting to show how far language around black people has come since then.

‘However, in hindsight I recognise it was not necessary to use the specific word and I accept that by using this word at all I have caused offence to some pupils. Clearly, this was never my intention and I unreservedly apologise for that error.’ 

But parents leapt to her defence and said it was not necessary to apologise for trying to educate pupils about the history of racial inequality.

One parent, a leading surgeon of Asian ethnicity, called Mrs Price a ‘wonderful headmistress’ who was trying to promote ‘education and debate’. 

‘We live in a difficult age, with society trying to rationalise and deal with some of the very troubling aspects of human history,’ he told The Times.

‘Language and the use of certain words have certainly changed over time, but I am 100 per cent certain that Sam Price would not have used the word negro for anything other than to promote education and debate.’

Mrs Price explained how, when it began in 1926, Black History Month was known as ‘Negro History Week’ in America.

Another parent, who also asked to remain anonymous, said Mrs Price was only quoting historical fact.

Benenden marks Black History Month every October. It was founded by black historian Carter G. Woodson and was originally in the second week of February.

Afterwards she received complaints from some senior girls at the school (pic) who said it was as offensive as the n-word and her use of it could give licence for other pupils to do the same

Afterwards she received complaints from some senior girls at the school (pic) who said it was as offensive as the n-word and her use of it could give licence for other pupils to do the same

There has been an increase in activism at UK schools sparked by the Black Lives Matter protests in the US.

Earlier this month, a boarding school renamed a house honouring the 18th century colonial ruler Clive of India after a series of demonstrations.

Clive House at Haberdashers’ Adams in Newport, Shropshire, will bear the name of celebrated war poet Wilfred Owen, who lived nearby in Oswestry, instead.

Past and present members of the school, founded in 1656, raised their concerns about Clive House after the death of George Floyd in the United States.

In a statement, the school, which charges boarders £12,000 a year, said: ‘By renaming Clive House, we believe that we will be contributing, in a small but useful way, to recognising and redressing some of the injustices inflicted on ethnic minority communities and their predecessors.’

Robert Clive, who lived near Market Drayton, was a controversial military officer and an official of the East India Trading Company.

It comes amid growing tensions about Britain’s colonial past, sparked by global outcry following the death of unarmed black man George Floyd at the hands of a US policeman. 

Westminster School has also seen a backlash from pupils in light of the Black Lives Matter movement

Westminster School has also seen a backlash from pupils in light of the Black Lives Matter movement  

In June, hundreds of former pupils at Westminster School signed a letter urging teachers to incorporate the teaching of black culture into the curriculum, and to address it’s historical links with slave trade.

Addressed to headmaster Patrick Derham and his soon-to-be successor Dr Gary Savage the letter suggested that racist incidents had been overlooked.

Stating that the school needed ‘to reverse a longstanding toxic culture of racism within the student body, which has long gone unpunished’, reports The Guardian.

The letter, which was prompted by the Black Lives Matter movement, explained that former pupils had recently been examining the racial issues that existed at the school – whose alumni include Nick Clegg, Nigel Lawson, Chris Huhne and Dominic Grieve.

It read: ‘Schools such as Westminster, with all its privilege and power, have a duty to ensure its students are actively anti-racist, and equipped to contribute to a fairer and more equitable society.’

Pupils claimed they did not read a single book by a black author while at the school.  

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