Date: May 2015
Location: Greater London
Case Study: SS
SS was in his French lesson. The class were shown pictures of deforestation and were asked by their teacher to provide comment. The class made comments on how the trees were being destroyed by machinery and the Greenhouse effect.
SS also took part in the debate. He started to talk about eco-warriors and their tactics. The tactics he talked about included the use of spikes implanted in trees to prevent chainsaws chopping them down. He explained that metal nails blunted the chainsaw. He continued that some people even consider eco-warriors as eco-terrorists based on the tactics they use. The teacher looked concerned.
SS cohorts also joined the discussion on eco-terrorism. The reason why SS and his classmates knew about eco-warriors and eco-terrorists was because they had researched the topic for the purposes of the debating society at school.
SS was taken to an “inclusion hut.” This is the area which students who are poorly behaved are disciplined. SS was questioned by two non-staff members and he described as ‘interrogators’. Below is an account of the line of questioning taken by these two staff members:
Interrogator one addressed SS and said “your French teacher mentioned you used the word terrorism”. SS was surprised that from explaining eco-warriors in my French lesson the term terrorism was now being used out of context to question me. SS explained how he had mentioned the phrase eco-terrorism in relation to eco-warriors and saving the environment. He explained that eco-terrorists use nails in the tree to blunt the blade of the chainsaw. Interrogator two said to interrogator one “told you he is a tree hugger” and made a gesture with her arms demonstrating tree hugging. Interrogator one asked SS if he goes around “hugging trees.”
The conversation took a drastic turn when SS was asked by Interrogator one “Do you have any affiliation with ISIS?” SS became increasingly nervous as he did not know why he was being asked such questions. SS replied “No.” Interrogator one asked SS “Do the chainsaws explode?” Interrogator two followed up with the question “Do you understand why there could be a misunderstanding?” SS said “No, not really because I was very clear in what I explained to my French teacher.”
This case displays a number of worrying trends which PREVENT Watch has seen in other cases. Firstly, parents were not informed at any point by the school that SS would be questioned in such terms under the auspices of PREVENT. If this was such an issue of safeguarding, the parents would be involved at an earlier stage. Rather than involve the parents, SS was put under undue pressure to answer questions that he should not have been asked in the first place and also by non-staff members. The effect on SS was profound. He thought the misconstruing of his statements could lead him being separated from his family.