A teacher and member of the British National Party who described some immigrants as "savage animals" in a website posting from a school laptop was cleared of racial and religious intolerance yesterday.
Adam Walker made history by becoming the first teacher to appear before a General Teaching Council disciplinary hearing charged with the offence. However, the three-member panel hearing his case said that while it was "troubled" by some of his postings it was not satisfied that his "intemperate" views were suggestive of intolerance.
The decision was criticised by teachers' leaders. Chris Keates, the general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, called the judgment "absolutely staggering".
"The GTC's code of conduct requires teachers to 'demonstrate respect for diversity and promote equality', but the decision today makes a mockery of the code," she added. "With this decision, the GTC has effectively given a licence to promote religious and racial hatred in schools."
However, Nick Griffin, the leader of the BNP, addressing a rally outside the hearing in Birmingham, said Mr Walker had been "outrageously persecuted for his political beliefs".
Mr Walker, who taught technology at Houghton Kepier Sports College in Houghton-le-Spring, Sunderland, used a school laptop to make postings to a website addressing the popularity of the BNP.
Using the pseudonym Corporal Fox, he said Britain had become "a dumping ground for the filth of the Third World".
Mr Walker resigned from his job when his headteacher said he would be investigating his use of the laptop and accepted he was wrong to do the postings in school time.
However, he stressed that he had not communicated his political thoughts and beliefs to staff or pupils at the school.
The panel found part of the allegation against Mr Walker – that he made personal use of a school laptop during lessons – to constitute unprofessional conduct and it is now considering what sanction he should face.
Its chairwoman, Angela Stones, said some of Mr Walker's postings contained offensive terms and demonstrated views or an attitude that might be considered racist.
However, she added: "The committee does not accept that references to 'immigrants' are of themselves suggestive of any particular views on race.
"For the GTC to prove its case in relation to [the allegation of racial and religious intolerance] the committee has to be satisfied that contributions made by Walker demonstrated views suggestive of racial intolerance.
"The committee's view is that, to be suggestive of intolerance, the postings would have to deny or refuse to others the right to dissent. We do not find that the postings themselves were suggestive of intolerance."