We are writing to you from the Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC), a London-based organisation that does campaigning, research and advocacy work on behalf of people experiencing injustices (visit www.ihrc.org.uk for more information on our work).
We are writing because we know that many parents, teachers and teachers’ unions are deeply concerned about the government’s PREVENT policy and the impact it is having on our youth. Prevent makes it a legal duty for every doctor, teacher, social worker, etc to spot signs of extremism in you and your family members. This policy has been heavily criticised by many because this is specifically geared towards children. For example, teachers are advised to look for changes in children’s behaviour as signs of extremism, such as changing the style of clothes they wear, changes in eating habits, and mood swings. As parents, you will no doubt know that these are changes that all children undergo, and to use it as evidence that a child is an extremist is deeply worrying.
Since the new laws around Prevent were introduced last year, we have seen case after case of young people in particular being unfairly targeted by Prevent officers and the police. This causes huge distress to the child, as well as their family and wider community. (For more information about the Prevent policy please see the ‘Prevent resource pack’.)
IHRC has been working with many concerned groups and individuals to challenge this policy, by demanding our right as citizens and resident to live peacefully and without fear in this country. Numerous international human rights organisations, trade unions, MPs, and members of the public have also stated explicitly that Prevent is highly discriminatory.
We believe now is the time for us as a community to step up our opposition to this policy. We are writing to you because we need your help to do this effectively. We need to make those who have the power to target our young people accountable. We also need to encourage teachers, doctors, nurses, social workers, etc to engage with parents before calling the police or a Prevent officer, particularly when there is neither evidence of wrongdoing nor immediate risk to anyone. We need to create an environment where criminalising students under Prevent will be avoided, and children’s welfare will be made the primary focus.
We hope that schools in particular will heed this call, and encourage you to contact your child’s school to encourage them to do so. In order to do this we suggest that you (on your own or as one of a group of parents) write to your child’s school to ask the following:
– What their position is on Prevent and how are they implementing it.
– Meeting with parents (and possibly students) to explain Prevent and discuss its intentions and consequences.
– Urge the school to provide training to staff that queries the effectiveness of the policy and suggests alternatives. IHRC does this training as a matter of course and would be happy to provide it to any school around the country free of charge.
The aim of this communication is to encourage a more transparent process and to ensure that your child is properly protected from unfair accusations and to avoid the unnecessary distress of any encounters with police or Prevent officers.
Our Prevent resource pack, enclosed, has a sample letter for you to use, or you can write your own. We have had groups of parents send similar letters to schools to good effect, and hope something similar can be achieved for you, your child, and your community.
The Prevent resource pack also has a brief introduction to Prevent and its problems, which should contextualise the situation for you. However, if you require more detailed information please visit IHRC’s resource page here or feel free to contact Lena Mohamed at firstname.lastname@example.org or call on 020 8904 4222.
In order for us to support you in this, we would appreciate if you would send copies of your letter(s) to Lena via the above email, and keep us updated about any responses you get. We are happy to discuss any questions you have and talk through any concerns. Additionally, should, the school be willing to provide staff with alternative training on Prevent, IHRC would be able to provide this. Should the school adopt a negative position, IHRC will be happy to make representations on behalf of parents.
Strategies like this, if done by many people in our communities, can challenge this unjust policy. It will make sure our voices are heard, and can be a step towards ensuring Prevent is abolished, and the discrimination and targeting of our children comes to a peaceful end.