Staff at Parkfield Community School in Saltley, Birmingham referred a 10-year-old Muslim boy to the Counter Terrorism Unit, after he asked for prayer facility during a school trip (Photo: Google Map)
A Birmingham-based primary school has referred a 10-year-old Muslim boy to the Counter Terrorism Unit, after he asked for prayer facility during a school trip.
Staff at Parkfield Community School, which has a high number of Muslim students in its roll, say their attention was drawn to the boy’s “changed” behaviour.
Speaking on Radio 4’s Today Programme earlier this month, Parkfield’s Head Teacher, Hazel Pulley, said the boy also asked fellow female classmates to wear a head scarf and voiced an “alternative” view about the Charlie Hebdo attack.
The school referred the child to police under the Home Office’s Prevent Channel Duty programme, which puts a statuary duty on teachers and those working with vulnerable people in spotting signs of “extremism”.
Parkfield Community School has reported 3 children to the programme, after staff ruled they were showing signs of developing “extremism”.
Pulley defended reporting the boy to police, saying he was “emphatic about having to have a prayer room, yet we don’t have one in school. It came with other behaviours at that time. It was as if in a different environment I can do different things, which was concerning. ”
She also said the boy was “encouraging” girls who removed their headscarf “just for an activity, or may not have worn one for the residential trip, to wear scarves. We don’t have that at school so why would we when they are removed from school? ”
She added, “He also expressed a view to a teacher about the Charlie Hebdo attack.”
According to the Pulley, teachers at the school discussed the matter with the pupil’s parents, who were not overly concerned but were supportive of the school.
However, according to media reports, some parents are enraged that their children could be reported by their school to anti-terror police.
One mother said: “They are just little children. Sometimes children do things for fun because they do not understand what they are doing or that it is wrong.”
A father added: “This level of scrutiny is only being targeted at Muslim children which is not fair. Children also mimic what other people might say or deliberately want to shock teachers. If children fear expressing their views, even if they are extreme, then they will be driven underground and will be more susceptible to extremists. Reporting a child to the police for asking about a prayer room is too far and not helpful to removing extremism from Islam.”
In a meeting with David Anderson QC, the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) voiced some of its concerns about the Channel programme as part of the Prevent policy.
In its July report to Anderson QC, MCB said the fact that between 2006 and 2013, 80 percent of referrals were rejected by Channel panels, “demonstrates that children are being viewed through the lens of security and practitioners are finding threats where none exist in many cases.”
Among many cases presented to Channel panels include: “A two year old with learning disability being r referred to social services for “concerning behaviour” after he sang an Islamic song with the words ‘Allahu Akbar’ [God is Great].”
“A young child in south London referred to social services for signs of radicalisation after he was specifically asked to write a piece on British foreign policy and he mentioned the history of the Caliphate. ”
“Parents in Stoke-on-Trent were brought in because their children were using inappropriate language, such as ‘Alhamdulillah’ [Praise be to God].”
And, “Two college students were stopped by a lecturer who noticed that they had made way for two female students and lowered their gaze. They were reported to the senior team for concerning behaviour. ”
Parkfield Community School declined to answer The Muslim News questions on the details about the other two students it has referred to the Counter-Terrorism Unit this year and the school’s current relationship with the parents.