Teachers said they no longer want police to be stationed in schools after the Child Q outrage, as National Education Union members voted for the removal of the senior Met police officers involved in the case.
Delegates to the NEU’s annual conference backed a motion that calling the police to deal with pupils “must be a last resort” for schools and teachers.
A succession of speakers told the conference that Child Q’s experience – where she was strip-searched by police at her school – was not an isolated case for black pupils, who were more likely to be affected by police stationed under the safer schools officer (SSO ) policy.
A national outcry followed last month when it emerged that the 15-year-old girl had been strip-searched by Met officers at her school after a false accusation that she possessed cannabis. No cannabis was found.
“What happened to Child Q cannot be allowed to ever happen again,” said Carly Slingsby, a teacher from Hackney, the local authority that includes Child Q’s school.
“We need to close the doors and school gates to the police so that our children will know they will not be the next Child Q.”
Slingsby said schools were selected to have an SSO based on the proportion of pupils on free school meals, absentee rates and the number of children with social workers: “These officers have made up their minds about our children before they even set foot in school . ”
Louise Lewis, a NEW executive member and teacher from Kirklees, said her heart broke when she read about Child Q’s experiences.
“For staff in schools, the policies and systems in place for schools to protect this child failed in the worst way possible, as did the police. Unfortunately this was not an isolated incident by the police, and that’s why we need change now, ”Lewis said.
“These figures and incidents are alarming and therefore, as the largest education union in the UK, it’s important we stand with Child Q and support her drive for change.”
Neil Dhanda, a teacher from Redbridge, told delegates at the conference in Bournemouth that the Child Q case “should raise questions about whether police should be in schools at all”.
“As shocking as it is, this is not the only example of harm caused by police presence. There are similarly affected families who are concerned that police in schools have a disproportionate impact on black children.
“Schools should not be policed and children should not be criminalized. This only serves to limit their educational and life opportunities, feeding a school to prison pipeline that unfairly impacts working class and black students. ”
Kevin Courtney, the union’s joint general secretary, said: “This has to stop, and the NEU is calling on the police to stop searching children and on the government to consult widely about revised behavior guidance, which has child safeguarding front and center.
In his opening speech to the conference, NEU president Daniel Kebede said the Child Q case highlighted “a growing trend in which police are ever-present in schools”, leading to the increased criminalization of children.
“Some say I’m wrong and police can provide a pastoral role, but I do not think that’s right. They degraded, abused and humiliated Child Q, ”Kebede said.
Noting that Child Q was not in possession of drugs, Kebede said: “I know a place where 11 in 12 toilets tested positive for cocaine. It’s a place where there is a 24-hour police presence. It’s called the Houses of Parliament. Why are [the Met] strip-searching children and not strip-searching MPs? ”