Teacher cleared of assault over Muslim headscarf
Issues of freedom of religion are again in the spotlight with the news that a teacher has been cleared of charges she racially assaulted a Muslim pupil by tearing off her headscarf during a row, and branded Islam a "joke".
The judgement comes at a time of heightened tension in Europe over religious symbols such as Islamic headscarves, which will be banned in France from September - a move that has prompted protests from religious leaders and demonstrations on the streets. It has also caused groups in the UK such as the Christian People'a Alliance to voice their concerns.
Hazel Dick, 43, was found not guilty on Thursday of "racially aggravated common assault" over an incident last March at Bretton Woods Community School in Peterborough, eastern England, where she worked as head of science.
During the trial, Dick denied telling the 15-year-old pupil that Islam was "all a big joke" and she denied ripping off the hijab headscarf, causing one of its pin fastenings to scratch the girl's neck.
The alleged incident occurred after Dick asked the pupil to remove a beaded black hijab and replace it with a uniform school headscarf. A clerk at Peterborough Crown Court said Dick had been found not guilty.