Teachers are facing a barrage of difficult questions in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on the US. Julie Henry reports
WHAT do you do when an 11-year-old pupil is told by a relative to be nasty to Asian classmates to "teach them a lesson"?
Teacher training and even years of experience are unlikely to have prepared schools for the events of the past few weeks. They are struggling to cope with questions pupils are posing following the terrorist attacks on America.
Muslim pupils, some of whom see military retaliation as as an attack on their faith, have their own concerns.
At a London secondary school with a large Muslim roll, one student refused to observe the three-minute silence for the victims, arguing that it was pro-American. The silence went ahead after a class discussion agreed that the gesture was for the innocent people killed in the Gulf war, Bosnia and the Palestine-Israeli conflict as well.
A teacher at another school was worried about the effect on pupils of American flags and headlines calling for war cut out from a newspaper and displayed on school kitchen windows.
This week police in Manchester, Birmingham and West Yorkshire stepped up patrols around schools and mosques in Muslim areas.
At Shenton primary, a predominantly Muslim school in Leicester, flower pots in the playground were smashed, equipment was wrecked and sand thrown at windows.
Headteacher Maggie Welton said: "I don't know if it was related to recent events but this kind of vandalism is unusual."
Ibrahim Hewitt, of the Association of Muslim Schools, said staff were ill-equipped to tackle anti-Muslim prejudice.
He said: "Part of the problem schools are facing is the general lack of understanding and awareness about Islam after 25 years of multi-faith education. On a four-year primary teacher training course only three days are spent on Islam."
RE teachers have been bombarded with questions, according to Lat Blaylock, of the Professional Council for RE.
He said: "Big philosophical and theological questions are part of RE's everyday currency, only they have been coming from the children themselves in the past two weeks."
For advice from other teachers see www.tes.co.ukstaffroom
SO WHAT DO YOU SAY?
Will there be a war? Will my family be in danger?
Why did God let this happen?
Why is Osama bin Laden suddenly a bad person when during the time he fought the Russians he was a good person?
Why should we believe in religion when bad thingshappen because of it?
Why do Arabs hate the Americans?
Is Osama bin Laden guilty?
Why should I bother at school if there is going to be a war?
What will happen to the Afghanistan refugees?