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A headteacher who appeared to blame ‘a number of’ Bangladeshi families for increasing the risk of Covid-19 infections at her primary school will take an early retirement – after parents campaigned to oust her.

Karen Todd said she felt ‘totally let down’ by those in the ‘Bangladeshi community’ in a letter sent to parents at Richard Avenue Primary School, Sunderland, in November last year. 

The headteacher – who has been at the school for 23 years – suggested adults could have been working as taxi drivers or in restaurants while awaiting Covid-19 test results.

She claimed others were attending wedding ceremonies at home and hosting Mehndi nights ‘against the law’ in the letter – which sparked outrage from community leaders who launched a petition for her to be investigated. 

Mrs Todd was absent from the school for five months before returning to her headteacher post in May.

Now – just two months later – Mrs Todd confirmed in a heartbreaking letter that she will be stepping down after taking an early retirement.

She said she spent her life ‘trying to make a difference to improve the life chances of our young people’ – and told how she will ‘truly miss’ the children she worked with.

School governors have now begun the process of appointing her replacement.

Karen Todd said she felt 'totally let down' by those in the 'Bangladeshi community' in a letter sent to parents at Richard Avenue Primary School, in Sunderland

Karen Todd said she felt 'totally let down' by those in the 'Bangladeshi community' in a letter sent to parents at Richard Avenue Primary School, in Sunderland

Karen Todd said she felt ‘totally let down’ by those in the ‘Bangladeshi community’ in a letter sent to parents at Richard Avenue Primary School, in Sunderland 

Karen Todd said she felt 'totally let down' by those in the 'Bangladeshi community' in a letter - which sparked outrage from community leaders who launched a petition (pictured) for her to be investigated

Karen Todd said she felt 'totally let down' by those in the 'Bangladeshi community' in a letter - which sparked outrage from community leaders who launched a petition (pictured) for her to be investigated

Karen Todd said she felt ‘totally let down’ by those in the ‘Bangladeshi community’ in a letter – which sparked outrage from community leaders who launched a petition (pictured) for her to be investigated

The letter she sent out in November read: ‘I apologise, for those Bangladeshi families receiving this letter, who are like myself, trying to do the right thing. But I felt it was important for us as a whole community to be open and honest with each other.

‘I ask myself, how many of those adults who are currently testing positive, or awaiting results, having acted irresponsibly; 

‘Have sent their children to school? Who are working as a taxi driver? In a restaurant or takeaway?

‘This virus is highly contagious, significantly impacts more on the BAME community and can kill. 

‘I feel many people need to wake up, take responsibility and change their behaviour.’

Community leaders described feeling ‘single-out’ and stereotyped as rule-breakers by the note. 

The long-serving headteacher suggested adults could be working as taxi drivers or in restaurants while awaiting Covid-19 test results. Pictured: Richard Avenue Primary School

The long-serving headteacher suggested adults could be working as taxi drivers or in restaurants while awaiting Covid-19 test results. Pictured: Richard Avenue Primary School

The long-serving headteacher suggested adults could be working as taxi drivers or in restaurants while awaiting Covid-19 test results. Pictured: Richard Avenue Primary School

Mrs Todd’s letter announcing her retirement

It is with a heavy heart that I am writing to inform you of my decision to take early retirement from August 31.

I have had 23 very special years at Richard Avenue, 18 of those as headteacher.

I have dedicated my life trying to make a difference to improve the life chances of our young people.

‘I have had the privilege of working with a fantastic team of dedicated staff and governors, who have been relentless in their ambition for the school community.

Everyone pulling together to make such a difference to local families and giving children the best start in life.

Most importantly, I will miss the children… their kindness, their humour and their innocence. I will, from the bottom of my heart, truly miss them.

I have always loved my job. It has been an honour and a privilege to hold such a position and work alongside such amazing children and staff.

You all should be incredibly proud of what you have achieved. Thank you to everyone and I wish all connected to Richard Avenue Primary School the very best. 

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The headteacher later apologised and accepted responsibility for causing offence but insisted it was ‘never my intention’. 

But petition was launched – and shared by parent’s to a Facebook page belonging to the school – calling on governors to investigate Mrs Todd’s letter. 

It read: ‘We the undersigned, petition the Chair of Governors in respect of the deeply hostile and discriminatory letter the Headteacher of Richard Avenue addressed to the Bangladeshi community on 3rd November 2020. 

‘We find the language and tone of the letter harassing, offensive, derogatory and humiliating, with the racist stereotyping of a whole community completely intolerable. 

‘We find the letter is inflammatory, incites hatred and increased risk of hate crime and racism. 

‘This is wholly unacceptable conduct for a headteacher, a custodian of a school with over 70 per cent BAME school population and who promotes the school as vibrant, multicultural and values and celebrates diversity. 

‘We find the apology issued on the 4th November 2020 by the Headteacher lacking in sincerity and has not appeased the aggrieved community.

‘We demand that the governors act impartially and fairly in investigating the professional conduct of the headteacher in line with the Headteacher’s Standards 2020 and the Equality Act 2010; including her failure to act indiscriminately, to promote positive and respectful relationships across the school community, her clear lack of respect and tolerance for others and her clear inability to implement consistent, fair and respectful approaches.’

Another letter from Mrs Todd was sent out to parents this month announcing her retirement.

Ms Todd claimed in the letter (pictured), sent on November 3, that some adults were making a series of 'totally irresponsible decisions' which had 'increased the risk' of Covid-19 transmission to pupils, staff and their families

Ms Todd claimed in the letter (pictured), sent on November 3, that some adults were making a series of 'totally irresponsible decisions' which had 'increased the risk' of Covid-19 transmission to pupils, staff and their families

Ms Todd claimed in the letter (pictured), sent on November 3, that some adults were making a series of ‘totally irresponsible decisions’ which had ‘increased the risk’ of Covid-19 transmission to pupils, staff and their families

It read: ‘It is with a heavy heart that I am writing to inform you of my decision to take early retirement from August 31.

‘I have had 23 very special years at Richard Avenue, 18 of those as headteacher.

‘I have dedicated my life trying to make a difference to improve the life chances of our young people.

‘I have had the privilege of working with a fantastic team of dedicated staff and governors, who have been relentless in their ambition for the school community.

Community leaders described feeling 'single-out' and stereotyped as rule-breakers by the note. Pictured: Some reaction to the letter

Community leaders described feeling 'single-out' and stereotyped as rule-breakers by the note. Pictured: Some reaction to the letter

 Community leaders described feeling ‘single-out’ and stereotyped as rule-breakers by the note. Pictured: Some reaction to the letter

‘Everyone pulling together to make such a difference to local families and giving children the best start in life.

‘Most importantly, I will miss the children… their kindness, their humour and their innocence. I will, from the bottom of my heart, truly miss them.

‘I have always loved my job. It has been an honour and a privilege to hold such a position and work alongside such amazing children and staff.

‘You all should be incredibly proud of what you have achieved. Thank you to everyone and I wish all connected to Richard Avenue Primary School the very best.’

Together for Children – the company that delivers children’s services on behalf of Sunderland City Council – confirmed Mrs Todd’s departure and said the board of governors will now begin the process to appoint her replacement.

Source: Daily Mail UK

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