Prevent Watch

The Prevent environment: 16-year-old boy referred for taking out library book

school prevent environment boy referred counter-extremism library book uk

A school with a strong Prevent environment sees a 16-year-old referred for taking out a book on terrorism, and Prevent officers arrived on his mother’s doorstep.

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ZM is 16 years old, and was in year 11 in a school located in Portsmouth when this case was first recorded. Prevent officers have heavily engaged with this school on “extremism” and “radicalisation” issues.

There is a strong Prevent environment at the school.

A Prevent environment is created when emphasis on Muslim students and extremism is dominant and when regular Prevent training and officers are present. In this case, Prevent officers visited the school regularly, and questioned students inside and outside school.

ZM’s mother described her son as “disinterested in Islam”, and she was surprised that Prevent officers approached him.

On 23 February 2015, ZM intended to take out a library book on the topic of terrorism, among three other books. However, the librarian observed ZM’s book selection from afar, and took the books away from ZM without his knowledge.

The librarian then informed the principle of the school, which led to a referral to the local Prevent officer.

The Prevent officer, after learning about the book incident in the library, visited ZM’s mother at the family home, and said that there are concerns that ZM is “falling into extremism”.

This case illustrates how a Prevent environment damages crucial trust dynamics in education.

It also shows the trivial nature of Prevent referrals. The librarian referred the case to the head teacher even when the item was a school library book.

Prevent compels schools to monitor students, however if school books are made a marker for “extremism”, the whole strategy becomes questionable.

If students are not permitted to freely study and read in libraries, then this will only disenfranchise them and will lead to self-censorship, which can have a pressure cooker effect on young people.

This makes Prevent deeply counter-productive, especially in educational settings.

Photo by Blaz Photo/Unsplash

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