A schoolboy has been hauled out of class and interviewed by police after he accessed the UK Independence Party’s (UKIP’s) website on school premises, which teachers deemed to be “politically incorrect.” His father has reacted furiously, warning “they’re like the thought police”.
On Wednesday morning, 15 year old Joe Taylor was shocked to be removed from class at Wildern School in Hedge End, Southampton, to be quizzed by a Hampshire Police officer over his use of school computers to access the UKIP website.
According to his father, Mick Taylor, a UKIP supporter himself, the youngster was accused of being a “political activist for UKIP” which they said made him susceptible to being groomed by the English Defence League (EDL).
“On Monday I receive a phone call and they said he’s been looking at some politically incorrect material at school,” Mr Taylor told The Express.
“My first reaction was to ask them if it was porn, but they said no – it was the UKIP website. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.
“We went into reception with the police officer and their first question to my son was ‘why are you a political activist for UKIP’? I asked why are you worried about the UKIP website and they said ‘well, we don’t think it’s right’.
“I was furious that they flagged him for looking at the UKIP website. I think it’s outrageous really.
“They tried to call him a political activist for UKIP and they asked him ‘why do you believe that’s the way forward?’
“I’m a UKIP supporter and I said ‘what’s wrong with that?’ They really quizzed him over UKIP.
“They are almost like the thought police. It’s shocking really.”
Schools have a duty to report anyone they consider is at risk of “being drawn into terrorism” to the government’s Prevent Strategy, so that they can be offered a place on a counter-radicalisation course.
Although the legislation was prompted by concerns over Islamic terrorism, government literature makes it clear that the strategy covers all forms of extremism, including far right ideologies. A 2013 Freedom of Information Request revealed that 14 per cent of referrals were due to far right extremism, while 57.4 per cent were Muslims.
Hampshire Police confirmed that they talked to Joe after the school asked them to intervene, but said the flag had not solely been raised over his accessing UKIP’s website, although that was a part of the conversation.
Mr Taylor says his son did also take a look at the EDL’s website earlier in the year after they watched a documentary together about Tommy Robinson. He rejected the idea this his son was being radicalised, saying he regularly converses with his son about politics including immigration but that Joe is free to make up his own mind on the subject.
“They were trying to quiz him on all this stuff, whether he’d gone to Luton [for the EDL march in November 2014]. They said we have to do it, you could be being groomed by the EDL.
He added: “I just find it in this day and age that you’re being monitored, so are we in a free society? That’s what it comes down to. The main thing I’m very angry about is people are being monitored in school. I can understand if it’s ISIS, but when someone’s just looking at the UKIP website it’s absolutely ridiculous.”
UKIP’s education spokeswoman Louise Bours said: “It is absolutely outrageous that a school is trying to censor its students in this way. Teachers are supposed to promote learning and understanding, not narrow their pupils’ world view and stifle debate.
“I find it astonishing beyond belief that officers saw fit to interview a child who was simply trying to complete his homework and I am deeply disturbed that both the police and this school appear to consider UKIP an extremist organisation.
“UKIP is Britain’s third largest political party and was backed by four million voters at the last General Election. This is just another shocking example of the pervasive left-wing culture which has infected large parts of Britain’s public service.”
UKIP’s Hampshire PCC candidate Roy Swales added: “This is a worrying incident. I can only assume that the police and some educators are engaged in an anti UKIP campaign to prevent young people looking at our party.
“As a candidate for Police Commissioner I am troubled that the police may be covertly attempting to influence the election in May.”
In a statement head teacher Marie-Louise Litton said: “Following an incident Wildern School contacted 101 for advice and were referred to the specialist team who made the decision to arrange a meeting with the student and their parent in school on 24th February. No further action was proposed.”