Father's frustration at North London Collegiate School over 'gas chamber' slur

Entrance to North London Collegiate School (Photo: Jonathan FeBland)

Entrance to North London Collegiate School (Photo: Jonathan FeBland)

EXCLUSIVE

The father of a Jewish pupil at North London Collegiate School who was told by a teacher she would be sent “to one of your gas chambers” has said that the school’s refusal to explain how it has dealt with the incident has turned it from a “personal matter to a community one”.

Speaking exclusively to the JC, the father — who wished to remain anonymous — said the school needed to show “visible accountability”.

He said: “We’ve heard from numerous parents of their horror and upset that there has apparently been no disciplining. That is the whole issue: to the outside world, there has been no disciplinary process.”

My daughter was at a loss for words. She was upset

The incident happened on January 24 at the £6,000-a-term girls’ school in Edgware. According to the pupil’s father, his daughter — who was 17 at the time — “lifted up the rope to enter the lunch queue, before being told to do so.

“The teacher saw, walked up to her and said: ‘If you do that, I’ll have to send you to the back of the queue — or to one of your gas chambers.’

“People around her were horrified and, abnormally, my daughter was at a loss for words. She was upset when she came home later that day.”

The female teacher had had no prior contact with the pupil but knew her to be an active member of the school’s Jewish Society. Indeed, the father said: “She knew my daughter had been involved that day in the Jewish Society’s Holocaust memorial assembly”.

After reacting with “shock and horror” on hearing about the incident, the parents emailed the headteacher, Bernice McCabe.

He said that Ms McCabe responded “promptly, saying it was outrageous, unacceptable and completely at odds with what the school stood for”.

Ms McCabe assured the family she would investigate the incident immediately. In the meantime, the teacher made a direct apology to the girl.

“The school has generally said all the right things,” said the father. “It has been supportive of my daughter from a pastoral point of view. But whether that all stacks up while the disciplinary process is kept confidential is a difficult one.”

He added: “As far as I am aware, the teacher is still at the school and it is not my place to decide what happens to her. I just feel that it is important for everybody at the school who knows about the incident to see that something has been done. How that accountability plays out is again up to the school: it doesn’t have to be an ultimate sanction, but it does have to be something.”

The father said he believed the ongoing lack of transparency had aggravated the issue and turned it into a public matter. “My daughter doesn’t feel great,” he said. “She is in her final year and effectively only has another few days of school left in her life. She should be focusing on her A Levels and doesn’t need this distraction and publicity.

“That is why it’s a matter of answering questions. Answer them for the Jewish parents whose kids remain at the school.” He added: “You just have to look in the media today to see other similar stupidities, whether it be a footballer with the quenelle salute, a Ukip politician or a Tory MP. But they do not escape being held accountable.”

In a statement to parents after the incident, Ms McCabe said that “a prompt investigation” had taken place, resulting in “action”, and an apology had been made. Because of “duties of confidentiality”, she could not go into more detail.

Last updated: 9:32pm, May 8 2014