Primary school bans anti-bullying book after mum complains about racist language

Primary school bans anti-bullying book after mum complains about racist language
Primary school bans anti-bullying book after mum complains about racist language

A primary school has banned an anti-bullying book after a mum complained about the word ‘P***’ being used in a chapter about racist abuse.

Jay Desai, 39, claimed she was horrified when her nine-year-old daughter was told by teachers to read ‘Deadly Letter’ by Mary Hoffman.

The book, published in 1990, tells the fictional story of a girl called Prity who had just arrived in England from India.

During a three-page passage in the book, the word ‘P***’ was used to describe Prity’s abuse at the hands of school bullies.

Greswold Primary School in Solihull, West Mids., has now removed the book from the library after Mrs Desai lodged a complaint with headteacher Karen Scott.

Mrs Desai, of Solihull, said: “I don’t know how it was published in the first place let alone distributed to schools.

“It makes comments about white people – all again very disgusting especially when the book is aimed at six and seven-year-olds.

“The school have been excellent in the way they dealt with the issue.

“They listened to my opinion and took on board my concerns.

“In certain situations, if being someone was being bullied, the book could be great as it shows how a child feels when they are being bullied.

“But I don’t think that particular word should be used in a book, especially one aimed at children.”

Mind your language

Mrs Desai even tweeted the author about her concerns but Mrs Hoffman defended her choice of language.

In a statement, she said: “I am very sorry if anyone was upset or offended by my book, which was the opposite of my intention.

“I wrote the story partly to highlight casual racism which begins even in primary schools.

“My husband is half-Indian, I have three mixed-race children, now adults, and have been fighting racism all my adult writing life.”

Parents whose children attend the school, which caters for 332 pupils aged 5-11 and rated ‘Good’ by Ofsted last year, were split on the decision to ban the book.

One dad, whose son attends the school, said: “Having read the book with my son, I think the word ‘P***’ as awful as it is, is appropriate.

“The word is used in the context of bullying and kids should learn from an early age that this word is not acceptable under any circumstances.

“I’m disappointed the school has bowed to pressure and banned the book from their library. Racism should be tackled head on, not swept under the carpet.”

Racism lessons

Another mum added: “I think kids of ten or 11 need to be taught racism but young kids should be protected.

“It’s like swear words, you wouldn’t tell a six-year-old off for swearing because they don’t know what they’re saying but older kids need to be told what is ok to say.”

Publishers Barrington Stoke defended the book, saying the context of the word ‘P***’ being used was appropriate.

A spokesperson said: “As publishers, we have every confidence in Mary’s ability to tackle the difficult subject of playground racism and bullying truthfully and with sensitivity.

“The use of this offensive term is challenged in different ways – and there is absolutely no sense in which the word is seen as acceptable.

“Our belief is that this story shows a proper, nuanced understanding of the issues involved in a way that we hope is appropriate for young readers.”