By Isabel Ringrose
Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 2809

Conference for the black child — a rallying cry against racism after Child Q

Many people at the conference in Hackney, east London, demanded cops out of schools
Issue 2809
A crowd shot of a session at the conference for the black child

A session at the Conference for the Black Child in Stoke Newington School in Hackney, east London (Picture: SUTR on Twitter)

Hundreds of anti-racists demanded justice for Child Q and an end to policing in schools at a conference in London, on Saturday. A 15-year-old girl, known as Child Q, was strip-searched by police after she was wrongly suspected of carrying cannabis at her school in Hackney, east London, in March.

The Conference for the Black Child was organised by Stand Up To Racism. It was backed by The Voice newspaper, Merseyside Black Lives Matter, Finsbury Park mosque and the NEU, UCU and Unison unions. It called for the two officers who carried out the strip search to be sacked and expressed outrage at the rise of strip searches on minors.

Stand Up To Racism president, Labour MP Diane Abbott, opened the conference saying, “We should never forget Child Q and her parents. Generations of young people have suffered from institutional racism both in policing and the criminal justice system, and in education.

“They have not achieved what they could have because of institutional racism. The penalisation, stigmatisation and marginalisation of young people cannot go on. It’s extraordinary that the two officers involved in the incident have not been disciplined in any way.” Abbott slammed this as a “disgrace”.

“We’re saying today that we will remain angry and will take this issue forward. We do not support police in schools. You don’t see police in predominantly white schools or in the Home Counties, so why have we got police officers in Hackney schools?”

Speakers explained the police presence in schools reinforces the “school to prison pipeline”. They also focused on the ramping up of academisation and the need for better representation of black students and teachers.

Kudsia Batool, TUC union federation head of equalities, said, “Black children are not seen or heard—their experiences are not listened to or taken into account. It’s structural inequality that has allowed this to happen.

“The government does its best to deny structural racism is real, but it exists and pushes down on black people every day. Black workers face the same thing. We need to make meaningful change by collectivising and coming together.

“We have to change our trade unions, schools and services so that they are far more representative of the people they serve.”

NEU joint general secretary Kevin Courtney added, “It’s vital this never happens again. We have to fully understand what went wrong and look at a wider context of racism. We have to strive to build anti-racism in schools to ensure all children are safe.”

Workshops discussed decolonising education, fighting exclusions and how parents, teachers and students can fight back.

In the workshop Policing in our Schools, attendees debated the role of the police. Speaker and ex-officer Leroy Logan called for anti-racists to work with the police, while some asked how to build trust and confidence. Others rightly argued that there is no room for police in schools or anywhere else in society.

As one woman stated, “The police protect the people at the top while people are starving and can’t clothe their children. Meanwhile the rich are getting richer. The police don’t protect us. We need houses, schools and nurses—defund the police. They’re scum.”

Neil, a teacher in east London, added, “We need to weed out the CEOs who set the policies—business and profit have no place in education. “We have to demand exclusion rates for black boys go down—and demand police in schools be replaced by something needed like mental health professionals.” 

Another woman said, “The issue with police in school is that it assumes guilt. You don’t get that in predominantly white areas. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy when you’re criminalised as a kid. And it goes further than police in schools—black kids’ hair and styles and self- expression are also policed.”

In another workshop on the Prevent Scheme and Islamophobia in schools, Stand Up To Racism speaker Naima Omar explained how Muslim parents teach their children to be cautious. And attendees shared their experiences of the hostile scheme and raged at the Tories’ racism.

“Prevent is a continuous trope of Muslims being terrorists,” Naima said. “But it’s not in a vacuum—this Tory government spouts racism everyday making Islamophobia normalised. Boris Johnson said women who wear the veil look like letterboxes and never apologised for it. And home secretary Priti Patel said Prevent is not hard enough.

“With the current crises, the Tories will ramp up racism, especially against refugees and Muslims. We need to resist in schools, workplaces, unions and the streets.”

In the closing plenary speakers talked about making sure unions stand against policing of children in schools. And the need for black and white working class people to unite against racism.

Anti-racists must now continue to fight against all aspects of racism coming from the Tories and say no to all police in schools and on the streets.

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