Students at City and Islington College in north London are still pressuring college bosses to end stop and search measures after an impressive walkout last week. The measures have reportedly been suspended while talks between management and the student union are planned.
One month ago students arriving at the college were forced through an invasive search by male private security guards. Management didn’t announce the new measures to the sixth form students, their parents or college staff.
The students were made to queue, and every tenth—selected via a buzzer system—was patted down and had their bags thoroughly checked. Hundreds of students joined a protest last week that called on management to end the “terrible” measures.
They were inspired by demonstrators in the neighbouring borough of Hackney after it was revealed that police strip searched a 15 year old black girl, known as Child Q, in her school. Students plan to continue lobbying college management to suspend and ultimately end the stop and search measures.
A meeting with management and student union reps is planned for after the Easter holidays. But students have told Socialist Worker that despite some communication from college bosses, they want to keep up the pressure to make sure they’re heard. There are talks of larger protests being planned to ramp up the campaign. Following last week’s student action, the Islington branch of the NEU education union said staff had also protested against the measures.
“We are appalled that the college has gone ahead with the stop and search despite our members’—and students’—deep opposition to it,” it said. It added that instead of students being “a threat” to people’s safety, “many of the college’s students are very vulnerable.”
And students who speak English as a second language, in particular did not understand why they were being searched via systematic checks. “The students were not given the opportunity to withdraw from the search, so don’t seem to have given consent,” the NEU said.
“There also does not seem to be reasonable grounds for suspecting that these learners were in possession of prohibited items. “Staff were horrified to find out that a Ukrainian refugee arrived at the college to be greeted with stop and search.
“Another cause of anxiety is that students are being led to separate areas to be searched.” In the wake of the outrage over the strip searching of Child Q, Tory education secretary Nadhim Zahawi said he was looking at “putting out much tougher guidelines”.
Currently schools are not required to tell parents about any such search, and only police can carry out intimate searches. But the solution isn’t tougher guidelines—it’s an end to all stop and search measures that look to criminalise children in schools. The students at City and Islington College show the right way to resist the invasive measures by standing up and fighting back.
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