UK - Statement

Joint statement on censorship of Palestine campaigning in schools

Published on Mon Jun 07 2021

Repression and censorship have increased as mobilization and protests for Palestinian rights in Europe have grown in the past few weeks. In the UK, children in schools were reprimanded, suspended or even excluded for speaking up about Palestine or showing solidarity through symbols associated with Palestine like flags. The ELSC signed this joint statement along with British organizations to ask the government of the UK to end its repressive policies against activism in schools.


In recent years, from Palestine solidarity to Climate Justice to Black Lives Matter, young people have stood up to assert themselves as crucial players in movements for justice.

Yet, the response from their learning institutions has been a concerning and unacceptable level of sanctions – and at times outright repression – against young people, to disempower and dissuade them from campaigning for justice.

Over the past few weeks, our organisations have witnessed and handled countless cases of children being reprimanded, suspended and accosted by teachers, and excluded for speaking up about Palestine, displaying the Palestinian flag or symbols associated with Palestine.

We have also encountered schools issuing outright prohibitions on any discussion of what is happening in Palestine, with warning signs of the Prevent duty being invoked to ‘handle’ the incidents.

Schools have a crucial part to play in fostering civic education. They must equip our young people with the information to  understand the world around them – one which is sadly riddled with injustice. Yet, as young people are becoming politicised and exercising social action, some school leaders are doing their utmost to thwart their efforts.

Instead of praising their students for taking an interest in the world around them, schools are actively preventing their students from developing themselves politically. 

This forms part of a wider climate fostered by the current government to roll back the growing political consciousness among young people. We have seen this in their manufactured backlash to the school climate strikes and last year’s Black Lives Matter protests, as well as in long-standing policies like Prevent, which are designed to monitor and coerce minority groups.

Indeed, in leaked Prevent training, schoolchildren showing an interest in what is happening in Palestine was listed as something that “needed careful monitoring.”

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has now intervened directly to control how schools discuss Palestine in the classroom. Encouraging the use of so-called “anti-extremism” measures to do so is a direct attack on young people of conscience across the country, and the education sector as a whole.

The repression of Palestine advocacy and Palestine solidarity campaigners has been exceptionally vehement in recent years, and has been deeply interwoven with Islamophobia and unrestrained anti-Palestinian racism.

This has created an environment in which schools and teachers feel either able or compelled to exercise heavy-handed censorship against those organising around the Palestinian cause.

In turn, this creates a chilling effect for all young people – and as we have clearly seen in the past couple of weeks, racialised and Muslim young people in particular.

The securitisation of our schools is part of a wider crackdown on political protest, as embodied by the recent RSHE Guidance for schools, the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, the Online Safety Bill and the upcoming ‘boycott ban’ bill.

We, the undersigned, pledge to resist these attempts to silence Palestine solidarity campaigning and offer our full support to all those who are fighting for justice. As such, we demand that the government abandon its censorious and repressive approach to controlling such campaigning in schools.

Signed,

Palestine in School

European Legal Support Center

Black Protest Legal Support

Friends of Al Aqsa

CAGE

Kids of Colour

MEND

Prevent Watch

Islamic Human Rights Commission

No More Exclusions

Coalition of Anti-Racist Educators (CARE)

Apartheid Off Campus

Abolitionist Futures

Black Lives Matter UK

Maslaha

Black Learning Achievement and Mental Health (BLAM)

No Police in Schools

Counter-policing in Education Network

Network for Police Monitoring (Netpol)

Northern Police Monitoring Project

4Front Project

Kings Students and Staff against Surveillance

Resistance Labs

SOAS Against Surveillance and Securitisation

Extinction Rebellion UEA

LivPalestine (Liverpool)

Read the statement here

If your organisation would like to co-sign this statement, please email palestineinschool[at]gmail.com

Image used courtesy of Unsplash/Ehimetalor Akhere Unuabona

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