Parents have been left fuming after discovering a history and geography teacher has been reading excerpts of the Koran to their children at a Catholic boy’s high school.
Jesse Pittard, who teaches both subjects at Christian Brothers’ High School, in Lewisham in Sydney’s inner-west, has come under fire from parents for reading out sections of the Koran to his year seven students at the start of the day during home room and before classes.
Parents and students told Daily Mail Australia Mr Pittard began reading excerpts to students at the beginning of the semester in July and claimed he has since read ‘more than half’ the Koran to them.
Parents are particularly angry they were not told about the Koran readings and questioned why the Muslim holy book needed to be read outside of religion classes.
One mother said her son revealed during a conversation that Mr Pittard was reading the Koran to him before his geography class.
‘We don’t send our kids to an Islamic school to listen to the Koran and it’s not a religion lesson, it’s a geography lesson, so how does that relate to geography?’ she said.
Mr Pittard has chosen not to comment on the matter.
The school’s principal, Brother Paul Conn, confirmed Mr Pittard had read passages from the Koran before several year seven classes, and said he had received three emails and one phone call from concerned parents asking for him to investigate the matter.
But he denied the readings had been going since the beginning of the school semester and had only happened ‘for a couple of days’ and were ‘supposed to be an academic exercise’.
‘Unfortunately, due to the timing of the exercise being with the normal beginning of [Catholic] lesson prayer, some confusion did exist,’ he said.
Mr Conn has since spoken to concerned parents. He said further discussion of the Koran in class has stopped.
‘I … clarified to all concerned that as a Catholic school, we are one hundred percent committed to our Catholic faith, and that our strategic plan and Religious Education Program has the Catholic faith as its core,’ he said.
‘Being a culturally diverse school, we are open to informed and balanced discussion on all faiths, but our commitment in terms of faith education is to the Catholic Faith.
‘I spoke to the teacher concerned, who is a Christian, and he now understands that all beginning of lesson prayer at CBHS Lewisham is Catholic.
‘He never intended to do anything differently, but his timing did cause some confusion. No further discussion on the Koran will be happening as no further need exists.’
One of Mr Pittard’s students said the teacher had read the English version of the Koran before geography class.
‘We don’t even listen, because it’s so long,’ the year seven student said.
‘We only do [Catholic] prayers in religion classes, but for one geography lesson we were waiting for about seven to ten minutes while he was reading the Koran.’
‘He gives us a demerit if any of us tell him not to read it … He has read more than half the Koran,’ another student said.
However, the principal denied any student had received demerit points for asking to not listen to the Koran.
‘One of the parents who contacted me was concerned about the issuing of a demerit. It was clarified that this was definitely not for anything to do with the reading of the Koran but for a completely separate classroom behaviour issue.
Now that he’s been outed, there’s no need for more Koran readings…until it happens again.