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Last Updated: Monday, 8 November 2004, 20:46 GMT
Schoolboy 'faced racist bullying'
A Muslim schoolboy was called "mud face", punched and spat at by his fellow pupils, a court has heard.

The boy, now 10, was bullied by pupils and teachers at St Christopher's School in Burnham-on-Sea, Somerset, at age six, his mother Aliya Smethurst says.

She is claiming damages against the former head teacher Diane Symes and the school's trust, St Christopher's.

Paul Gilroy, representing Ms Symes and the trust, said the boy's mother had a "history of complaining".

He asked: "Something goes wrong and you wheel in the lawyers and threaten legal action, don't you?"

The truth is that he had balls of mud thrown at his face which had stones inside
Aliya Smethurst
He referred to a series of newspaper reports, and accused Mrs Smethurst of trying to "conduct the case through the media".

Mrs Smethurst, who ran a boarding house at the 3,500-a-year school with her husband Patrick, told Swindon County Court that the problems began after her son joined the school in 2000.

Mrs Smethurst said he returned home with different bruises almost daily.

The court heard the boy was scared of going to school, refused to eat and had nightmares.

Mrs Smethurst said her son was told to dress as a black cloud during a school play, while his classmates played the part of white clouds.

'Racial harassment'

The 36-year-old mother-of-three from Pakistan said: "The truth is that he had balls of mud thrown at his face which had stones inside.

"They said to him that it would make him more brown and it is good for his complexion."

Opening the case, Oliver Hyams said: "The use of the description 'mud face'... was clearly hurtful to him, and was clearly also bullying.

"It amounted to racial harassment. In those circumstances it was important that staff took action. None was taken."

Mrs Smethurst also claims a teacher pushed over her son, injuring him, on a school trip in December 2000.

The family left Somerset in 2001 and moved to Hertfordshire, where Mr and Mrs Smethurst are house masters at a private school near Letchworth.

St Christopher's School closed in August last year because of falling numbers.

The hearing continues.



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