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Hornsey school criticised for excluding pro-Palestine students

A student claimed an Israel flag was permitted to be waved – but those showing support for Palestine were disciplined, reports Olivia Opara

Parents and students have hit out at a school in Hornsey after a number of pupils were disciplined for expressing their support for Palestine.

HCP understands that a large number of students of Hornsey School for Girls have been either expelled or temporarily excluded over a series of incidents, including pupils painting Palestinian flags on their hands and staging a walkout of an assembly.

In another incident, the words ‘Free Palestine’ were written at the entrance to a prayer room.

The clashes between students and teachers came after a letter addressed from Haringey Council’s schools and learning department was sent to parents on 13th October telling them that “it is of paramount importance for our school to maintain its commitment to neutrality when it comes to political and international matters”.

The letter adds: “It is our responsibility to ensure their [students’] education is not influenced by political biases.”

However, one year eleven student has told HCP that the school has previously allowed students to be vocal about political and international matters in the past and that what is happening to her and other students in relation to Palestine is “confusing”.

She also claimed that, contrary to the policy, one student was allowed to wave an Israel flag, while teachers are said to have been warning students supporting Palestine to “be careful” and that they would get in trouble.

One parent, whose daughter attends Hornsey School for Girls, told HCP that at first parents did not think anything about the letter that was circulated – until they started to see what was happening to students.

“A life is a life regardless of race, faith or affiliation and the fact that Hornsey School is cancelling or trying to basically null out the voice of the kids, I feel like it is a bit one sided,” she said. “Maybe it is the political times that we are in […] but it is creating a great amount of fear among the kids.”

The parent added that school personnel would walk around with hand sanitizers and wipes to force students to wipe the Palestinian flag off their hands.

“[This is] a bit concerning and I am sorry for my daughter, even though she is not directly involved,” she said. “There is basically no space for autonomy, expression, or thought for the kids.”

Students were also disciplined for walking out of one of allegedly multiple assemblies in which the headteacher, Kuljit Rahelu, talked about what would and would not be allowed to be expressed on school grounds in relation to the conflict in Israel and Palestine.

One of the students disciplined said she and her classmates were asked to write statements about what had occurred during the assembly and, following this, they were each taken out of their classes one-by-one and dismissed from the school.

“When a student would leave and not come back that is when we knew that we were all being excluded,” the student said. “The school then wrote that we were being excluded for ‘not following instructions and disrespect’.”

Despite being penalised, the pupil said that students have continued to display their solidarity for Palestine by wearing their badges and that “they [are] not going to stop”.

The father of the excluded student also told HCP that what was happening to his daughter and other pupils was “completely unfair” and that no-one was reprimanded for showing support for Ukraine or Black Lives Matter previously “so why is it different for Palestine?”.

Hornsey School for Girls is a comprehensive run by Haringey Council. After the school and the council were approached for comment, Zena Brabazon, the council’s cabinet member for children, schools and families, said: “Everyone in Haringey and beyond has been horrified by the events taking place in Israel and Gaza and this has affected a number of our residents in the borough including pupils at our schools.

“It is an incredibly difficult and complex situation for our young people to talk about and process.

“Our young people at Hornsey School for Girls and many other schools across the borough need to be supported to express their thoughts and feelings in a constructive and careful way.

“Schools must be a safe place for pupils where tolerance, compassion and respect for all are core values to observe on a daily basis.

“We will continue to meet with our schools and provide support to help our pupils through these difficult times.”


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