Prevent Watch

Teacher Suspended for Sharing an Article

Date: December 2014
Gender: Male
Location: West Midlands

JI is a teacher at a school in the West Midlands region. He advocated a number of political and religious ideas while in a private setting. He was subsequently suspended from his position as a teacher based on these views.

There are two views which were highlighted by the school which they thought warranted suspension. Firstly, JI had posted an article by a reputable journalist on what would constitute an act of terrorism. The second view concerned whether a petition to proscribe the English Defence League should be circulated

The school and the Department of Education alleged that JI had support views which are anti-Western and anti-American and had also undermined fundamental British values. JI was subsequently reinstated once an investigation had been conducted by the school

There are a variety of concerns regarding the application of PREVENT in JI’s case. Firstly, the article which JI posted related to the definition of terrorism and its application in certain contexts. The cliché of “one man’s terrorist is another man freedom fighter” is a cliché because it is true. The definition of “terrorism”, whatever that may be, is something which is still being debated and discussed in academia. Using this as evidence of an “extremist” mind set would lead to the term extremist being used on a mass scale. This could lead to legitimate debate and discussion being stopped for fear of being stigmatised as an extremist.

This leads onto the second flaw in this case; it is based on the notion of British values and the definition of “extremism.” Extremism is defined as “the vocal or active opposition to fundamental British values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and the mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs and calls for the death of members of our armed forces as extremist behaviour.”

The definition of extremism is vague and not uniformly applicable to all situations. For example, Home Secretary Theresa May was unable to defend the definition when pressed for its application in different scenarios during an interview on Radio 4.

Secondly, views expressed by JI were elucidated in a private arena.  They were never espoused to any students at the school, nor were they ever discussed on the schools premises. There could not even be the possibility of a safeguarding issue occurring since the students did not know the JI’s views.

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