Disgust at racist jokes

24th June 2005 at 01:00
Two-year ban for man who 'laughed loudly' as he talked to boy about 'pakis' and 'niggers', writes Andrew Wakefield

A teacher who told racist jokes to a pupil has been banned from teaching for two years.

Stephen Parnell, formerly of Minehead middle school, Somerset, has been found guilty of unacceptable professional conduct by England's General Teaching Council.

He was overheard telling the racist jokes to a boy on a school trip for 150 Year 8 pupils to a performance of Macbeth at West Somerset community college in April, 2004.

Tony Bailey, a teacher, who was walking a short way behind Mr Parnell, said: "What drew my attention was the use of the word 'paki'. Mr Parnell seemed to find the jokes amusing and was laughing loudly."

He said he had considered confronting Mr Parnell and the pupil on the spot, but decided instead to report the matter to the deputy head as he did not want to inflame the situation.

Mr Bailey said he had felt uncomfortable as a mixed-race pupil had been walking beside him and overheard the jokes.

Later that day Mr Bailey went to see Paul Rushforth, headteacher, to express his "disappointment" and "disgust" at what he had heard.

Mr Rushforth then interviewed a student who told him Mr Parnell had told a racist joke about drowning, and another which had involved a question about a "nigger."

A second pupil said Mr Parnell had used the words "paki" and "black magic" while talking to an ethnic-minority pupil. Another confirmed Mr Parnell had told the joke about drowning.

The mixed-race pupil told the head he was angry about what he had heard and recalled jokes about drowning and black magic but was not sure whether he had heard them from Mr Parnell or the second pupil.

When Mr Rushforth questioned Mr Parnell, the teacher said the boy was not "run of the mill" and that he had used jokes which he had remembered from when he was young to help develop a relationship with him.

"That's the way I am," he told the head. "That's the way I deal with a 13-year-old boy."

Mr Parnell admitted that his comments were "on the edge" but claimed it was about "pushing the boundaries". Later, though, he said he wished he had not told the joke to the boy.

Mr Parnell - who is no longer in teaching - did not attend the hearing last week in Birmingham. He was found to have made inappropriate comments of a racial nature to pupils.

He was also found guilty of encouraging and listening to inappropriate comments and jokes of a racial nature with pupils at the school.

Mr Parnell will not be allowed to re-apply for registration with the GTC for two years.

* newsdesk@tes.co.uk

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