Jack’s Story

 

Jack (not his real name), a 14 year old from Derbyshire, had described himself as a socialist and an anti-fascist during a school lesson on the black civil rights movement in America,

During the class, he mentioned attending anti-racist demonstrations and how a group of fascists were attacked in Liverpool, although he made it clear that he only supported peaceful direct action.

That evening, the school called Jack’s parents to say it had decided the risk of “radicalisation towards terrorism” their son faced was so significant that a referral had been made to Derbyshire’s Safeguarding Children Board, under the auspices of Prevent. The school refused to discuss the matter any further, or provide any documents for “safeguarding reasons”.

However, three days later the county council wrote saying the Prevent referral did not meet safeguarding criteria for further action and the matter was closed.

When the parents asked the school for a copy of the referral, they discovered it wrongly said their son’s father did not live with Jack and his mother and falsely claimed the father and son had “knowledge of terrorist training camps and or meetings”.

When challenged, the school apologised and informed them the member of staff who had written the referral had been reprimanded.

However, West Midlands Counter Terrorism Unit then started to text the child’s mother and continued to send emails and make telephone calls. This persisted even after police had been told that the school had provided incorrect information and even after they were asked to stop. Jack’s mother said she felt “harassed and as if the police were trying to divide our family.”

A subsequent data protection subject access request from the parents to the school revealed that police officers from the Prevent Team had offered to send a lecturer into classes to challenge Jack’s views but “it would be part of a wider education of the whole year so they weren’t accused of targeting [him]”.

Both parents are Labour Party supporters, socialists and anti-fascists. Both are also health and legal professionals and feared that, because the police would not leave Jack’s mother alone, eventually officers would contact their employers and put their jobs at risk.

They told Netpol that “the thought of being labelled terrorist, extremist and a possible risk to our children created such stress and anxiety” and that that it seemed as though the police were deliberately trying to force them apart.

At one point, Jack’s parents considered whether his father should move out for a while until the harassment by the police stopped, but decided this would have an even greater negative impact on the family and on Jack’s well-being

Previously an outgoing and articulate young man, Jack has now become increasingly anxious about leaving his home and is worried that the police would come to school and speak to him or take him away. He no longer has any trust in his teachers.

Neither parent has attended any political event since June 2018. They told Netpol:, “we are scared that if we do and we are photographed by the police, then we will have to face the whole experience again”. 

“We would never think that being a anti-racist, anti-fascist or a socialist advocating peaceful protest or peaceful direct action would ever result in the police calling us extremist. Our children have never been exposed to violence or harmful experiences. To suggest that our political views required safeguarding and labelled as extremist was chilling”.

Jack's Parents