London haredi Orthodox school redacted history books to cover up British monarchs’ immodest behavior


This story has been updated to provide the school’s response.

(JTA) — A haredi Orthodox girls high school in London redacted history books to cover up what it considers the immodest behavior of British monarchs.

At a hearing on the Yesodey Hatorah Senior Girls’ School, a government school standards inspector said that an entire chapter of a textbook had been glued together.

“It wasn’t a question of an image, this was an entire chunk of history,” Amanda Spielman, the chief inspector of the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills, or Ofsted, told the parliamentary education select committee on Monday, the Jewish Chronicle  reported.

The school responded in an email to JTA on Tuesday.

“The manner in which Ms Spielman picks on our school during almost every high profile interview and meeting is tantamount to bullying and harassment,” a spokesman, Matthew Owen, wrote. “It is intimidating to our staff, parents and pupils and only attempts to embarrass our school. Having recently lost our Principal, Rabbi Pinter, who passed away from the Coronavirus, our school is in mourning and we are looking to rebuild.”

The school’s founding principal, Rabbi Avrohom Pinter, died of the coronavirus earlier this month.

Owen went on: “It is truly astonishing that Ms Spielman again used the opportunity for dialogue and collaboration, to further torment and harass our school.

“We are also astonished that Ms Spielman felt the need to discuss our school’s Redaction Policy, an issue that she is well aware was resolved some three years ago. We are forced to conclude that Ms Spielman has a personal vendetta against our school which we find deeply troubling.”

So what did the school find objectionable?

It blanked out a picture of Queen Elizabeth I dancing with Robert Dudley, who was a suitor. It also neglected to teach about her father King Henry VIII’s complicated marital life as well as the accusation of adultery against Anne Boleyn.

The school, which receives state funding, was downgraded to inadequate by Ofsted two years ago over censorship of textbooks. But a follow-up inspection earlier this year found that it met the requirements of the national history curriculum, according to the report.

Spielman was asked to defend the criticisms she made of the Hackney borough school in a report submitted to Ofsted in January, according to the Daily Mail.

According to the report, the students were not allowed to visit the Tate modern art gallery because works exhibited there, including by Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse, were considered too explicit. The school also redacted parts of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes novels, according to the report.

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