A headteacher has been forced to apologise after she appeared to blame 'a number of' Bangladeshi families for increasing the risk of Covid-19 infections at her primary school.
Karen Todd, who is in charge of Richard Avenue Primary School in Sunderland, faced significant backlash this week after stating she felt 'totally let down' by those in the 'Bangladeshi community' in a letter sent to parents.
She suggested adults could be working as taxi drivers or in restaurants while awaiting the results of coronavirus tests, adding that others are allegedly attending wedding ceremonies at home and hosting Mehndi nights 'against the law.'
The headteacher has since apologised and taken full responsibility for any offence caused - after furious parents and community leaders described feeling 'single-out' and stereotyped as rule-breakers by the note.
Ms Todd claimed in the letter, 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.
Karen Todd, who is in charge of Richard Avenue Primary School in Sunderland, faced significant backlash this week after stating she felt 'totally let down' by those in the 'Bangladeshi community' in a letter sent to parents
The headteacher has since apologised and taken full responsibility for any offence caused - after furious parents and community leaders described feeling 'single-out' and stereotyped as rule-breakers by the note. Pictured: Richard Avenue Primary School
The teacher, who has worked at the school for more than ten years, listed the activities these adults had allegedly taken part in 'against the law', including attending weddings inside homes and sharing cars without wearing masks.
Her list also included attending Mehndi nights, when Asian brides meet their friends and family before the wedding to paint their bodies with intricate Henna patterns.
In the letter, she said: '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.'
A Public Health England (PHE) report revealed in June that Britons of Bangladeshi ethnicity have around twice the risk of white Britons of dying from the coronavirus.
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, who recently visited Bangladesh, went on to explain in her letter how she felt 'totally let down by a small element of the Bangladeshi community.'
'I am not trying [to] act as the Covid police, but when your actions impact on my school community and potentially people's lives, I am going to get involved,' Ms Todd added.
The letter sparked furious backlash from parents and community leaders in Sunderland, which has an estimated Bangladeshi population of 7,000.
Richard Avenue Primary School educated 258 children in the 2018/19 academic year who did not have English as a first language - around 62 per cent of its 421 pupils.
One parent, whose child attends the school, said the letter was 'hard to take.'
Abu Sharma said: 'There are these connotations that stereotype our community - it is so wrong to say we are the only community breaking the rules.
'There's ways of raising issues and this is not the appropriate way. It's disgusting to be hearing this from a person of authority - it's very hard to take.
'Statements like this will only lead to more hate crime in the community.'
Mr Sharma added he believes the school should have raised concerns with individual parents, rather than appearing to blame the community.
Some who saw the letter were upset by the apparent suggestion 'all Bangladeshis in Sunderland are taxi drivers and takeaway workers'
Syeda Rahman added: 'Apparently all Bangladeshis in Sunderland are taxi drivers and takeaway workers!
'And they are also to be blamed for the raise in Covid-19.'
Meanwhile, the chair of Sunderland's Bangladesh International Community said the whole community have been left 'shocked and upset' by the letter.
Syed Khalid Miah said: 'We are very disappointed with the letter, we never expected to hear anything like this from a headteacher.
'To say that this is our fault is upsetting, and is very bad for the whole community - we are part of this community, we are working for this community, and we contribute our support the community.
'The whole Bangladesh community in Sunderland, and the North-East have been shocked by this.'
The headteacher issued an apology in a second letter to parents last night, in which she accepted responsibility 'for the offence caused as this was never my intention.'
She said: 'I would like to apologise to the entire school community, particularly those from the Bengali community, for the letter that I issued to parents yesterday.
'I regret sending the letter, and I accept responsibility for the offence caused as this was never my intention.
'I am passionate about the inclusive and diverse education of our children and I am truly sorry for my actions.'
Rebecca Evens, Chair of Governors at Richard Avenue Primary School, said: 'Today we have been made aware of the content of a letter issued to parents yesterday, Tuesday 3rd November, from our Headteacher.
'Richard Avenue Primary School is a vibrant, inclusive and multicultural primary school and I would like to assure you the Governing Body are listening to concerns raised by parents.
'As Chair of Governors, I can confirm the Governing Body are taking the concerns seriously and following school procedures, we are dealing with the situation appropriately.'
Richard Avenue Primary School was rated as 'Good' by Ofsted inspectors during its latest full inspection in 2014 - the second highest of four grades awarded to schools.
The report said: 'Pupils’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development is exceptional', adding: 'Discrimination of any kind is not tolerated and all pupils have an equal opportunity to succeed.'
The school was visited by Oftsed for a short inspection in 2018, when it was again graded 'Good.'