Freedom of expression: UK teacher suspended after showing 'inappropriate' cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed in class
LONDON: A school teacher was suspended on Friday after reportedly showing an "inappropriate" cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed at a school in the Midlands region of England.
The image was used in a lesson at Batley Grammar School in West Yorkshire earlier this week and triggered protests outside the school.
The teacher in question has since been suspended pending an investigation, with Head Teacher Gary Kibble apologising "unequivocally".
"It is never acceptable to threaten or intimidate teachers. We encourage dialogue between parents and schools when issues emerge.
"However, the nature of protest we have seen, including issuing threats and in violation of coronavirus restrictions are completely unacceptable and must be brought to an end," a Department for Education (DfE) spokesperson said.
"Schools are free to include a full range of issues, ideas and materials in their curriculum, including where they are challenging or controversial, subject to their obligations to ensure political balance.
"They must balance this with the need to promote respect and tolerance between people of different faiths and beliefs, including in deciding which materials to use in the classroom," the spokesperson said.
The department's officials said they remain in contact with the school and local authority after video footage across social media showed people chanting as they crowded around the school gate, which was flanked by police officers.
West Yorkshire Police confirmed they were called to monitor the demonstrations this week but no arrests were made under the Coronavirus Act, which means any gatherings and protests currently remain banned.
The caricature, believed to be one published by French magazine 'Charlie Hebdo', was shown to pupils in a religious studies lesson on Monday.
"The school unequivocally apologises for using a totally inappropriate image in a recent religious studies lesson. It should not have been used," Head Teacher Gary Kibble said in a statement earlier.
"A member of staff has also relayed their most sincere apologies," he said.
The local member of Parliament, Opposition Labour's Tracy Brabin, said the "upset and offence caused" was "understandable and predictable".
"I hope the school and concerned parents can now move forward constructively and focus on their children's education and overcoming the challenges presented by the pandemic," she said.
Local British Muslim groups have also called on the community to maintain the peace.