Seventeen-year-old AC contributed to a class discussion about the Nice attack, saying that the attack was bad, but he also said that he could understand why the attacker had done what he did.
AC then clarified that he was referring to racism and social deprivation faced by North African immigrants in France, which lead to feelings of despair.
The school said they had clarified the comments with AC and acknowledged that it had been simply a case of a clumsy use of words. However, after contacting the local Prevent lead about the matter, the school decided to refer AC to the local authority.
Prevent Watch supported the family and provided AC’s father with information concerning Prevent and informed him about the Channel Programme. Furthermore, Prevent Watch provided AC’s father with information concerning his and AC’s rights and obligations in respect of Prevent.
Soon after, the school told AC’s father that the matter was closed as the local authority said they would not take it any further. Prevent Watch informed AC’s father about any possible follow up steps he could take.
This case demonstrates the prevailing trend of schools, who are urged by Prevent officers to make overzealous referrals of students.
In this case, the school had already concluded that there were no concerns about AC’s comments, so it is disconcerting that the school decided to contact Prevent regardless, and that the decision was then made to refer AC.
This case further demonstrates Prevent’s chilling effect on open discussion in schools.