London – Schools have taken a harsh approach to displays of solidarity with Palestine by students and teachers alike, a new case analysis by CAGE has shown.
In the 47 cases CAGE has handled, nearly all cases featured interventions and reprimands for students displaying their humanitarian support for Palestinians.
While only a single case led to a formal PREVENT referral, the climate engineered by the PREVENT policy, which is to police and manage discussions on politically sensitive matters can be seen in full swing. This is further exacerbated by Government diktats to school leaders and Ofsted’s increasingly overbearing monitoring regime of any politically inconvenient speech.
Cases featured in the report include:
- The school that banned students from wearing or displaying any colours of the Palestinian flag, as well as abayas or any clothing resembling ‘Middle Eastern clothes’.
- The student with behavioural issues who was referred to Prevent and social services after emailing videos of Islamic lectures and Islamic spiritual healing to his school to express his unhappiness at a school’s one sided presentation on Israel-Palestine.
- The students who were suspended because it was deemed that wearing a Palestine badge to school was ‘inappropriately political’ and may ‘offend’ students.
- The student banned from using their online classroom platform due to them discussing Palestine with friends on it, and threatened with exclusion.
The 20-page analysis which features over a dozen case examples, concludes with clear recommendations for schools to reject the securitisation of Palestinian activism and to create an environment that nurtures debate. For the government, CAGE has demanded it ceases its partisan interventions and its authoritarian management of the education sector.
Azfar Shafi, CAGE researcher said:
“The punitive reaction from schools towards children expressing support and solidarity for Palestinians reflects a political context that has sought to toxify Palestine, and an institutional environment that seeks to silence discussions around social and political issues in schools”
“Schools should remember their role in fostering an environment conducive to civic education, rather than discipline students for practising basic empathy.”