‘Racist’ bus drivers ‘driving past schoolgirls wearing traditional hijabs’
Bus drivers in Merseyside have been accused of racism after allegedly refusing to stop for Muslim school girls wearing traditional hijabs.
By Andrew Hough
The “cowardly” drivers on certain Merseytravel routes were alleged to be driving past pupils wearing the traditional veil that cover their heads, to avoid “trouble”, it was claimed.
Police have since been forced to patrol buses to deter racism amid claims some school girls were also being bullied and verbally assaulted on public transport.
As a result of the allegations, which the local Muslim community last night claimed was long-running, a new set of guidelines have also been issued to drivers “to prevent further incidents”.
It was claimed that pupils from Holly Lodge Girls’ College, in West Derby, were subjected to the verbal abuse.
A Merseyside Police Authority report stated that “young Muslim women are targeted by racists on the way to Holly Lodge School”.
It added that “often buses won’t stop” for the girls “easily identified by their veils”.
More than one in 10 of the 11,274 students at the school, praised by Ofsted, the education watchdog, for its “promotion of equality and diversity”, are from ethnic minorities.
Julia Tinsley, Holly Lodge’s head teacher, said: “There have been a small number of cases where ignorant people have directed racist comments at our pupils while they are on buses.
“It is completely unacceptable and very upsetting for those involved and we have provided support to those affected.”
Amina Ismail, who was approached by some of the school’s pupils, last night branded the drivers as “cowards”.
“They said people driving past were being abusive because they were wearing the hijab (headscarf) at the bus stops,” said Ms Ismail, Liverpool John Moores University’s black minority ethnic recruitment adviser.
Paul Clein, a member of the Merseyside Police Authority, said any driver deliberately failing to stop was “guilty of racism and bullying”.
But Colin Carr, from the Unite union, which represents local drivers, expressed surprise at the claims.
“The union would condemn this kind of action, and equality and diversity is something we promote across the spectrum,” he said.
A spokesman for Merseytravel last night said following an investigation the company had “drawn up an action plan to deal with, and prevent, any further incidents”.
While he said the company condemned “all acts of racism”, he would not give details on the new measures.
A spokesman for Merseyside police added: “We will be putting police community support officers on public buses during the periods these incidents are happening to reassure passengers and deter would-be offenders.”
The force had also developed a plan that allowed victims to make anonymous complaints.
Source: Daily Telegraph