Teacher in headscarf case cleared of racial assault on Muslim girl

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The Independent Online

A teacher was yesterday cleared of racially assaulting a Muslim schoolgirl by pulling off her headscarf and mocking her religion.

Hazel Dick, 43, was accused of pulling a headscarf off Seleena Sabeel, 15, and calling Islam "a joke" at Bretton Woods Community School in Peterborough, in March last year.

The schoolgirl alleged she suffered a cut neck when Ms Dick "forcibly" took her hijab from her head.

But Ms Dick, who is head of science at the school and had a 16-year unblemished record, was cleared by a unanimous verdict at Peterborough Crown Court. The jury of seven women and five men took just 45 minutes to reach their verdict.

Judge Nicholas Coleman said: "I hope, Miss Dick, you can resume your career as soon as possible and put this behind you."

Ms Dick, who sat sobbing in the dock, replied: "Thank you very much."

Outside the court, Ms Dick's brother, Kenny Vaughan, said she hoped to return to work soon. "My sister is relieved that this whole ordeal is over," he said. "She has had to stay strong to clear her name of the false allegations levelled at her.

"My sister is a religious woman who has always treated other religions with respect."

John Gribble, Ms Dick's headteacher, said he was "relieved and delighted" at the jury's verdict but added that Ms Dick's ordeal had lasted almost a year.

He said Seleena would be allowed to remain at the school while an internal investigation looked into her false allegations. The court was told the girl had a record of poor behaviour including violence and abuse.

The incident which led to the allegations happened on 23 March last year when Seleena was told to change her hijab because it was not school uniform.