Parents of 14-year-old at north London’s Central Foundation school take legal action after he was left ‘scared and nervous’ by experience
A Muslim schoolboy was questioned about Islamic State after a classroom discussion about environmental activism, the Guardian has learned.
The parents of the 14-year-old are taking legal action after the boy said he was left “scared and nervous” by his experience with school officials in north London, and was left reluctant to join in class discussions for fear of being suspected of extremism.
The incident gives an insight into how schools and teachers are dealing with the pressures of the government’s new anti-extremism initiatives amid mounting concern about British youngsters being lured by Isis propaganda.
According to court documents, the boy was in a French class at the Central Foundation school in May 2015 and took part in a discussion, conducted mostly in French, about the environment. The teacher and pupils were said to have discussed those who use violence to protect the planet.
The teenager mentioned that some people use the term “ecoterrorist” to describe those who take action such as spiking trees with nails to prevent chainsaws from chopping them down.
A few days later he was pulled out of class and taken to an “inclusion centre” elsewhere in the school. During this meeting the schoolboy said one adult sat behind him, and another in front of him, whom he had not seen before. That person was a child protection officer, the Guardian has learned, who had been called in to establish if concerns about terrorism were legitimate.
The boy who wishes not to be named, told the Guardian: “I didn’t know what was going on. They said there had been safety concerns raised. If you are taken out of French class and asked about Isis, it is quite scary. My heart skipped a beat.”
He said he was baffled how mentioning the phrases “L’ecoterrorisme”, which he had learned from an earlier session of the school debating society, led to him being asked whether he supported Isis.
The boy and his parents say he was asked if he was “affiliated” with Isis. The school said he was asked if he had heard of the terrorist group, according to legal papers filed by his mother. The boy’s mother said her son came home from school “visibly distressed”.
The school said it was protecting the “welfare of the child in line with statutory and non-statutory guidance including the ’prevent duty’”, the government initiative that aims to stop people turning to extremism and terrorist violence, according to the legal documents.