Muslim teacher sacked for safeguarding students welfare


Surayah Bi, a Muslim teaching assistant, has won an unfair dismissal case after being sacked from the Heartlands Academy in Birmingham in 2015 for arguing that a teacher should not be showing graphic footage from the 9/11 attacks in the classroom.

Bi, 25, felt that the audience of year 7's - a special needs class - was too young to be shown the video of victims leaping to their deaths from the higher floors of the World Trade Centre. The video, according to Bi, had required the teacher to log in to her personal YouTube account in order to bypass restrictions that warned against viewing if under the age of 18.

Bi stated that the students themselves had raised concerns about the nature of the footage, and after they were ignored by the teacher, Bi reported the incident to higher-ups at Heartlands Academy the next day: 23 September 2015. Barely an hour later, Bi had found herself fired, less than two weeks after she had first began working at the school.

A safeguarding checklist published just three days after her firing reveals that Bi had been head girl at the Saltley School – a school that had been involved in the infamous Trojan Horse affair five years after Bi had graduated.

The Trojan Horse affair refers to the 2013 incidents involving an anonymous letter to Birmingham city council threatening that Islamic extremism would infiltrate and take over state-operated schools. The letter has since been proven to be a hoax. The scandal, the damage of which Bi feels “has affected thousands and thousands of lives”, has been unfairly used to implicate Bi as an extremist.

The note also said that Bi had written her dissertation on the effects of the scandal on students, and that Bi had only argued against the 9/11 footage because she found it offensive as a Muslim. Bi’s connection to the Trojan Horse affair made Bi ‘suspicious’, according to the checklist, and the Heartlands Academy suspected “that this girl has done it before”.

Initially, the Heartlands Academy had offered Bi £11,000 in order to compensate for a year of lost wages. Bi declined the offer and sought justice through an employment tribunal and, in March, was triumphant in winning her claim of unfair dismissal due to whistleblowing. However, the tribunal failed to agree that she had been discriminated against on the basis of being Muslim.

This month, a judge ruled in another hearing that the Heartlands Academy had been in violation of the 2010 Equality Act. Nonetheless, Bi has applied to have her claim of religious discrimination re-examined, as in her opinion, she would not have been dismissed had she not been Muslim.

A spokesman for E-ACT, the trust that runs the Heartlands Academy, commented that the trust “respect[s] the tribunal’s decision and we continue to further strengthen our processes to ensure that there can be no repeat of the errors highlighted to us during this case”.

The spokesman was in agreement with the March ruling against Bi’s claims of religious discrimination, describing the academy as having “an outstanding record for dealing with safeguarding matters and has in place robust safeguarding policies and practice”.

In a statement, a spokesman for E-ACT, the multi-academy trust which runs Heartlands Academy, said: “Although we are disappointed by the judgment, we respect the tribunal’s decision and we continue to further strengthen our processes to ensure that there can be no repeat of the errors highlighted to us during this case.”

Bi has expressed that she is willing to reach a settlement with the school at the remedy hearing scheduled for next year.

More on the Trojan Horse affair here.

Ayan Goran