Wednesday, 3 March 2010
No bus for Hijabi Girls
School bus drivers have been accused of racism after failing to stop for pupils wearing Muslim hijabs.
Young girls have claimed they are being bullied on board for dressing in the traditional veil which covers the head.
To avoid trouble, ‘cowardly’ drivers are allegedly ignoring pupils who wait at bus stops wearing the headscarf.
Following a police investigation, officers will now be drafted on to board the buses to protect the students from ‘racist’ taunts of other passengers.
The problems centre on Merseytravel and pupils attending West Derby's Holly Lodge Girls' College in Merseyside, where 10 per cent of the 11,274 11 to 18-year-old students are from ethnic minorities.
Members of the Muslim community said the issue was a long-running one.
Amina Ismail, who works at Liverpool John Moores University, was approached by the victims.
She said: ‘They said people driving past were being abusive because they were wearing the hijab.’
Ms Ismail said bus drivers refusing to stop were ‘cowardly’ and that ‘they should not push their own personal prejudices on young people’.
She urged people to ‘see past the scarf or skin colour and look beyond this’.
Holly Lodge has previously won praise from Ofsted for its ‘promotion of equality and diversity’.
Headteacher Julia Tinsley said: ‘There have been a small number of cases where ignorant people have directed racist comments at our pupils while they are on buses.
‘It is completely unacceptable and very upsetting for those involved and we have provided support to those affected.
‘We welcome the assistance from Merseyside police in tackling the mindless minority who think it is acceptable to make racist comments.’
Merseyside police has produced an action plan to prevent any further incidents, including looking at how victims can pass on anonymous information.
A spokesman said the force was committed to tackling racism, adding: ‘We will be putting police community support officers on public buses during the periods these incidents are happening to reassure passengers and deter would-be offenders.
‘CCTV will be routinely checked following allegations of any criminal offence.’
However, Colin Carr, regional adviser for Unite - whose members include bus drivers - said he would be surprised if they were failing to stop.
‘The union would condemn this kind of action, and equality and diversity is something we promote across the spectrum,’ he said.
Merseytravel said it condemned ‘all acts of racism’ and, after probing the claims, has ‘now drawn up an action plan to deal with and prevent any further incidents’.