A Luton school has refuted claims that a student was referred to an anti-terror scheme because he wore a ‘Free Palestine’ badge in class.
Rahmaan Mohammadi, 17, alleged he had been ‘interrogated’ by police officers after he was referred to Prevent, the government’s anti-radicalisation strategy, by Challney High School for Boys last summer.
Speaking at Goldsmith students’ union in London last week, Mr Mohammadi claimed that teachers told him to stop talking about Palestine in school.
He also said that a staff member at the Stoneygate Road school asked his brother to “advise Rahmaan to stop being radical or he would be referred to the authorities”.
However Challney High School for Boys has countered both claims, telling the Luton News that teachers “were not concerned about the nature of the badges and wristbands” and that “at no point was the student told not to talk about Palestine in school”.
A spokesman said: “The fact of the matter is that the school does not permit the wearing of any accessories that are not part of the school uniform except for official badges such as prefect badges or badges that relate to curriculum projects that are going on within the school.”
He added: “We are an educational institution and we teach our students about important global issues and we encourage open discussion and debate.
“As a school, one of our main objectives is to ensure that we are preparing our students for life in modern Britain by teaching them about democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, respect and tolerance for those with different faiths and beliefs.
“As part of this we need to ensure that any materials that are presented within school represent a fair and balanced view.”
Reports of Mr Mohammadi’s address to students at Goldsmiths suggested that one of the reasons the 17-year-old as referred to Prevent is because he asked permission to fundraise for children in Palestine.
However Challney has said that Mr Mohammadi and other students were encouraged and that the school supported efforts by “ensuring that the funds raised were donated to internationally recognised charities.”
Following Mr Mohammadi’s referral, two officers from the Beds Police counterterrorism intelligence unit visited the 17-year-old at his family home.
Mr Mohammadi said that the experience made him feel alienated.
He told the Sunday Times: “Prevent creates paranoia. In school...if a senior member of staff was walking past, we would whisper to each other saying, ‘What if they’re listening to our conversation?’ That’s how paranoid it makes you.
“When police come to your house and say, ‘I want to speak to you’, with this massive folder with your name on it, that’s intimidating.
“It makes you feel alienated.”
Challney High School for Boys has said that it is unable to elaborate on why the 17-year-old was referred to the scheme.
A spokesman told the Luton News: “We take our duty of care towards all of the students in the school very seriously.
“As part of this we have a very clear and robust safeguarding policy and we work with appropriate agencies to protect the young people in our care, ensuring that we follow all national and local guidelines including those within the Prevent strategy.
“However, due to the confidential nature of these matters, and for obvious reasons, we are unable to discuss how they may or may not relate to any individual students or why someone may have been referred as this is a private matter relating to an individual pupil.”