A SYDNEY couple has withdrawn their two children from a public primary school, claiming their 11-year-old son was bullied by Muslim students because he ate a salami sandwich during Ramadan.
Andrew Grigoriou said yesterday he complained to the school and to police after his son Antonios was chased and later assaulted by Muslim students after a confrontation over the contents of his lunch, The Daily Telegraph reports.
Antonios, a Year 5 student of Greek-Australian background at Punchbowl Public School in Sydney's southwest, said he and a friend had to be locked inside the library for an hour after being chased by a group of Muslim boys offended by his choice of food while they were fasting.
The Grigoriou family said the following exchange took place:
Muslim student to Antonios: "Why are you eating ham, it's Ramadan?"
Antonios: "My mum packed this for lunch today."
Muslim student: "Don't eat that. How can you eat pig, it's disgusting."
During the confrontation a Muslim boy allegedly accused Antonios of saying: "F--- the Muslims" but Antonios denied swearing.
Mr Grigoriou said he removed his son and a younger child from the school on Tuesday after the boy was punched in the eye and kicked in the legs by a Muslim student.
"It has broken my heart to see this happening to my boy," he said. Antonios, who wrote about his experiences in words and drawings, still has nightmares.
The Department of Education and Training said it had a zero tolerance policy towards racism.
"Claims of bullying or racial intolerance are taken very seriously and looked into," a spokeswoman said. "The School Education Director is looking into the matter and called the father concerned.
"As a result ... the school will work with all families and students involved to ensure that the values promoted by Punchbowl Public School and the department are understood and supported."
After the salami sandwich incident a student described as "the ringleader of the group" was suspended from the school. The department said that the school had "ongoing cultural and interfaith awareness programs to improve understanding among students of events like Ramadan and Christmas".
Other parents also complained to The Daily Telegraph about bullying at the school and claimed victims received too little protection.
One said her 12-year-old son was scared to open his lunch box at school because he was harassed about what is in it. "He has been bullied from day one ... about being a Christian and about the hot salami in his lunch," she said.
"My boy has a Greek background ... the bullying is extreme.
"He has been called a fat pig and hit on the back with a stick."
Another mother said her young son refused to go on school excursions for fear he would be bashed.
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