'My daughter was driven out of her school by antisemitic bullying'

Girl was 'deeply traumatised' after being subjected to a campaign of hate that lasted months


Sad desperate young girl suffering from bulling and harassment at school

Rachel’s daughter had been very happy as a pupil at a non-Jewish primary school near her home in south London.

But after moving up to secondary school, she was subjected to a campaign of hate that lasted months and included taunting with swastikas and Nazi salutes.

Yet teachers failed to acknowledge the incidents were antisemitic.

The daughter was so “deeply traumatised” she eventually felt forced to switch to a Jewish school a long journey away on the other side of London.

The troubling story told by Rachel (not her real name) to the JC is not included in the official statistics informing the shocking report on antisemitism in secondary schools revealed in today’s edition.

Her ordeal began towards the start of the last school year.
She walked into class before a lesson to find some of her classmates holding a large Palestinian flag.

Aware that she had close family members living in Israel, they were chanting: “Free, free, Palestine.”

Her teacher was present but chose not to intervene.

The school is a large and successful comprehensive rated “outstanding” by Ofsted.

Teacher told Rachel’s daughter that what she was experiencing was not antisemitic, and so the incident was never official recorded. Rachel says that in the months after the flag incident, her daughter was subjected to antisemitic comments in the playground.

On one occasion a group of 12-year-old boys drew swastikas on their hands and threw things at her.

Rachel says she complained to her daughter’s head of year.

Even now, the form teacher flatly denied that any of the abuse was antisemitic in nature or intent.

Rachel says: “It was ignorance, not malice. But that doesn’t make it any less harmful.”

A situation that was already deeply concerning for Rachel and her daughter became unendurable when the Israel-Hamas conflict broke out in May last year.

In Israel, the family’s relatives were taking shelter from the more than 4,300 rockets fired against civilian targets by Hamas over the 11 days of the conflict. At the school, there was not even a pretense at striving for a balance.

With the conflict still raging, it held a “special assembly” to focus on the Palestinian victims of Israeli airstrikes, while failing to mention the other side of the narrative.

In the playground, the response was worse antisemitic abuse.

On one occasion, Rachel’s daughter was planning to take a bus while wearing a Magen David around her neck and a male student, spotting it, “did a Nazi salute at the bus stop”.

Finally, one evening towards the end of the conflict the daughter could take no more. She came home and said: “Mum, I just want to get out.”

Although she knew that it would mean travelling across London every day, a journey that can take hours, she asked to be moved to a Jewish school on the other side of the capital.

Rachel says: “My daughter holds her cards close to her chest. She’s not any kind of drama queen. But it’s very clear that she was deeply distressed, and now she’s not.

“She and other Jewish students are growing up facing a level of hostility that was never visible to me when I was that age. Antisemitism then was an outlier. Now it’s becoming the norm. To be honest, it’s heartbreaking.”

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