A headteacher has denied claims that a Facebook row which led to the suspension of three schoolchildren was sparked by a message of support for British troops in Afghanistan.

The students were given fixed-term exclusions from the Sidney Stringer Academy in Coventry following an argument “over a girl”, the school said.

Academy principal Wendy Tomes said the school had “acted swiftly” after a complaint from Clare Allington that her son Darius Gill, 13, had been threatened with violence by fellow pupils on the social networking website.

She said: “On Monday morning we were alerted to a problem on Facebook involving one of our students. The comments had been posted over the weekend.

“Because we are concerned for our students, we immediately investigated and gathered the evidence that we needed so that we could take appropriate action.

“It appears that there was a disagreement over a girl and there were students using inflammatory language and talk of a fight happening.”

The school would not comment on the age, sex or religion of the pupils who were suspended.

Mrs Allington, aged 42, said her son had been threatened by a group of year eight students after he posted images on Facebook in support of British troops ahead of Remembrance Sunday.

She said: “I logged on and it broke my heart. I was reading all sorts about knuckle dusters, knives and death.

“They were planning to attack him at school that day, so I rang the school straight away.”

Mrs Tomes said: “As a school we are working closely with parents and students to show just how dangerous Facebook can be if used thoughtlessly.

“The situation has not been helped by the introduction of reports regarding the cause of the problem.

“All of the witnesses interviewed have been very surprised to hear that the source of the dispute is quoted to be over wearing a poppy and supporting soldiers. All strongly refute such claims.”

She added: “As a school we have spent the last few weeks selling poppies and have raised money for the appeal as we do every year. Students have made significant contributions to this.

“We pride ourselves on being a multicultural school where students of all backgrounds relate well to each other and are tolerant and respectful of each other.

“We will not tolerate students making threats to others or making insulting or disrespectful comments about other people’s culture or background. We will maintain the good atmosphere which exists in the school. We are proud of it.”

Mrs Tomes sent a letter to parents of pupils at the academy asking for their support in dealing with the “increasing problem” of social networking websites.

Mrs Tomes added: “We are not prepared to allow the welfare of our students to be jeopardised and so we interviewed all of the pupils involved and contacted their families.

“Three of the students have been excluded and we have met with all of their families.

“The students that we have interviewed have been very ashamed of themselves, and their families have been very supportive.”

Coventry Police Superintendent Ron Winch said: “Incidents of bullying, be it online or otherwise, tend to be dealt with initially in-house by schools themselves and that is what has happened in this case.

“It would be impractical for police to intervene in all cases of bullying.

“Police officers have spoken to the boy who has been the subject of the comments and the boy’s parents, and they are happy with this approach.

“However, we have been working closely with the school since these allegations came to light and we will conduct a thorough inquiry to assess whether there has been any criminal behaviour.”