Student walkout over searches

Students stage walk-out over 'stop and search' security checks at school gates

Friday, 25th March — By Anna Lamche

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CANDI students protest new security checks on Monday

COLLEGE students have staged a walkout in protest at the introduction of “stop and search” security checks at the gates.

Around 200 sixth-form students at City and Islington College (CANDI) in Goswell Road, Clerkenwell, walked out of their lessons on Monday morning.

In an official statement, Kurt Hintz, the college’s executive principal, said the checks are random and sporadic – and compared them to visiting “a museum or an airport”, adding that they were introduced as a deterrent because “knife crime is again on the rise”.

The first check was carried out earlier this month. A machine selects between 10 and 20 per cent of students for a security check in a private side room. Bags are checked before a metal detecting wand is passed over them. The checks are carried out by college security staff.

But the walkout students said they had been made to feel like “criminals”. Ash Draghiciu said: “It’s like coming into prison, but we’re here to learn.”

Students downed tools during their second lesson and rallied outside the college, where speeches were given and handmade placards waved at passing drivers. “Everyone just left, tonnes of people gathered outside and rallied round chanting,” said student Rinny Ahmed. “We just want to be heard, that’s the main thing.”

 

Students protesting on Goswell Road

The day before the walk-out, hundreds of people gathered outside Hackney Town Hall to express solidarity with Child Q, the 15-year-old black girl pulled from an exam and subjected to a police strip search while at school.

The case led to a furious backlash and concerns about the policing of school environments.

“Especially with Child Q going on, it’s a very sensitive topic at a very sensitive time,” said Ashton Milton, a student member of the college’s Quality Oversight Committee. “I appreciate that they’re saying it’s meant to be a safety precaution, but I think it’s causing more fear and harm than it is good.”

Mr Milton is not convinced that the measures make students safer. “I want them to stop using this as a way to push the narrative that they are trying to keep us safe, because this doesn’t make any student safer,” he said.

Ashton Milton protesting security checks

Ashton Milton

The checks occur once every few weeks. Student Kaiya Francis said: “Lessons usually start at nine, but on the day they were stopping and searching people, lessons had already started, so we were missing out. “You can see how damaging stop and search is, and how it doesn’t help: it hinders.”

Female students have also expressed their concern that so far, male staff have been carrying out the searches. To this, the college has said: “We are ensuring that from now on, both the security staff and the other staff member will be the same gender as the student being checked.”

Islington’s branch of the National Education Union (NEU), which represents most teachers in the borough, has congratulated the students for “protesting so forcefully”. Teachers at the school “do not want to be associated” with the new policy, the NEU said, and have recently staged a lunchtime protest of their own against the searches.

In its statement, the college has expressed its concern that “some people are describing the checks as ‘stop and search’”. The college said a survey of 987 students in February found 63 per cent of students thought “random security checks for knives at the entrance to the college made them feel safer”.

But NEU spokes­person Ken Muller has said: “If it looks like ‘stop and search’ and feels like ‘stop search’, then it is ‘stop and search’, whatever they want to call it. The college should stop trying to hide behind formulations.”

He added: “We call on the college to listen to its students, its staff and the local community and end stop and search on its premises immediately.”

Mr Hintz’ statement said: “Unfortunately, the grim reality is that young people in London are now far more exposed to violence, and the threat of violence in their everyday lives. A few minutes discussing this with a group of young people quickly exposes their very real concerns in their lived experience. “This is why we are carrying out the additional security checks.”

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