Australia's top school sacks teacher for racist remark

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The Independent Online

Simon Hood, a physical education teacher at Scotch College, Victoria, was explaining mnemonics to a class of lower-sixth boys when he asked them to come up with a phrase that would help them remember the letters "BBRWW".

The pupils offered their suggestions, whereupon Mr Hood, a long-standing and hitherto well-respected member of staff, proffered his own spontaneous example: "Black bastards rape willing women".

Among the boys in the class was Nathan Djerrkura, a promising footballer accepted on to Scotch's indigenous scholarship programme designed to promote racial equality in Australia's national game.

The 16-year-old rising star, pictured this week in full football kit in the national newspaper The Age, was said to be upset by his teacher's inflammatory remarks, which soon spread throughout the school.

Mr Hood, who subsequently issued a full apology to the class, was nonetheless forced to resign after it became clear he had caused irrevocable offence to students and parents.

The school's principal, Dr Gordon Donaldson, sent a letter explaining his institution's response to the furore but has refused to comment publicly on what he has called "an internal issue". A colleague at Scotch, who had worked with Mr Hood for almost a decade, told journalists that the teacher was "devastated" - both by his own behaviour and also by the school's decision to encourage him to leave.

Scotch's zero-tolerance policy towards signs of racial discrimination in its hallowed hallways has been welcomed by parents and pupils. "I'm pleased with the way the incident was handled," said one parent. "The teacher's behaviour was unforgivable and I think Dr Donaldson has showed the whole school community that racism and sexism won't be tolerated."

The scandal could not have come at a worse time for the 154-year-old private school, Australia's equivalent to Eton College. Scotch has only recently won positive publicity for its 10-year-old indigenous scholarship scheme - celebrated this week in The Age.

But this latest scandal is likely to overshadow any praise it won through the stories of Mr Djerrkura and Cyril Rioli, two of the Scotch scheme's most promising footballers from the Northern Territory.

Dr Donaldson told The Age he remembered the first time an Aboriginal Darwin team played Scotch's first 18. "These really talented, very black boys playing our firsts, and the strange thing was that the school was supporting the visitors!" he recalled. "The thing that united the two cultures that were so far apart was footy. That really opened my eyes to the whole concept of what could be achieved."