There is nothing worse than speaking to a proud, desperate, and distraught mother who’s daughter has had her life turned upside down through no fault of her own.

According to Cherie Johnson, whose daughter attends  St Michael’s Catholic College in Southwark,  she informed OBV that;

“ a number of staff members  labelled my daughter a racist, and that she distributed racist material”.

She has now been suspended and will be put Pupil Referral Unit- PRU- for two weeks . This is the time she will be sitting her mock exams.

The central part of  poster that the daughter put up in school stated:

 ‘37 million people died during WW1, but 60 million people died during slavery. Why should I care about Remembrance, when they can’t show any respect for us during Black history month.’

Cherie Johnson also claims that staff  made the threat to her the family “that if they go to  the media about her suspension they will expel her permanently  from the school.”

The school have issued OBV with a statement denying that no threat was made in regards to permanent exclusion and no accusation of racism was made against her daughter

Cherie Johnson and OBV are still awaiting full details of  the suspension. Our present understanding is that thee  accusations have been levelled at Cherie Johnson’s daughter: Vandalising school property; Distributing material with inappropriate and offensive language; and behaviour contrary to the ethos of the college

Cherie Johnson went on to say:

“What do I  do?  My child is at a critical age, exams around the corner, and now this. The school called me up and said that my daughter was sending racist material around the school, but this is not racist it’s just a reflection of what some young people feel. It’s challenging but, how is this racist?”.

OBV has tried to speak with the school but their Principal Felicity Corcoran stated in a message via her admin staff:

We cannot discuss any details about a student other than with the parents or carer.”

But if the facts are as the mother puts it, and there’s no reason to disbelieve her, then this is appalling on so many levels.

First, it is not racist if you don’t ‘care’ about Remembrance Day. It is equally not racist if you object to Remembrance Day. For example, two top footballers made clear that they object wearing the poppy on their football shirt during games.

The Serb international Nemanja Matic of Manchester Utd said that the symbol reminded him of , ‘the NATO bombs that killed Serbs during the Kosovo War.’ The Stoke city play James Maclean who was born close to where the 1972 ‘Bloody Sunday’ massacre of Irish civilians occurred at the hands of the British army, stated: “I know many people won’t agree with my decision or even attempt to gain an understanding of why I don’t wear a poppy.”

It is a tragic shame and a gross injustice that the school has sought to severely punish this young girl for something that should have instead ignited an educational, even philosophical debate about the issues raised in the young girl’s social media post.

For example, why not discuss those elements of WWI remembrance in which Black contributions are writ large, such as Black war hero Second Lieutenant Walter Tull, and the many African regiments that enlisted to fight a cause that was so many miles away from their own homeland.

Furthermore, one senses the young girl and her friends frustration stems from the fact  that they feel wider society does not fully embrace Black history month and the recognition that many more millions of Africans died due to the 200 years of slavery, and the 200 years of colonialism. Many justifiably  say, ‘where’s the remembrance for us?

So instead of engaging this young minds  the debate has been shut down, the young woman expelled, labelled a racist, with the threat of further punishment if she challenge their decision.

One can only hope that the Principal Felicity Corcoran quickly reverses that decision, apologies to the young gril and her family, and opens up the debate to engage inquisitive minds and discuss their history and and  belonging  withing these challenging debates.

If the schools motto is to mean anythng: ‘Vince in bono malum’, which translates to ‘Defeat a wrong with something good’, they should quickly reverse this decision.

Simon Woolley


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