BIRMINGHAM – A British Muslim mother has complained that her seven-year-old boy was reported to police after his school mistaken a piece of brass the boy had for a bullet.
The boy was “very distressed and intimidated” when two officers were sent to his home to try to interview him, the boy’s mother, who has not been named but is an academic at a West Midlands university, told Tell Mama, a charity that monitors Islamophobia, The Guardian reported.
The young schoolboy, only seven, said the brass cylinder was a ‘bullet’ and told teachers his teenage brother, who had been on an army cadet course, had held a weapon.
Staff at St Edward’s Catholic Primary School, Birmingham, alerted West Midlands Police and officers went to the boy’s home.
Angry that the school failed to tell her it had contacted police, she refused to let officers question her son when they visited her home last month.
“It immediately became apparent that neither the school nor the police thought it was a real bullet, yet nobody thought to use some common sense. Instead it was unduly escalated and left my seven-year-old very distressed and intimidated that police officers were insisting to question him directly,” the mother told Tell Mama.
“It is ridiculous that no one used any common sense and that it was ever taken any further by both the school and the police.
“I am also very angry about the way the matter was escalated. They – the school and the police – were heavy-handed and placed undue suspicion on a seven-year-old. They caused him a lot of distress that could have been avoided. They left him mistrusting his teachers after they told him it would be a matter to discuss only with parents and they dealt with us as parents in a way they would not deal with non-Muslim parents.”
The mother added that her child would not have been reported to police if he were not a Muslim.
“I don’t think the school would have escalated it if we were not Muslim. It was almost as though we needed to prove our innocence rather than they would need to prove that they had a reasonable basis for questioning us or proving our guilt,” she told the Sunday Times.
“I don’t want to sue the police or the school but I do want my issue highlighted for them and other schools to know that they just can’t do that. They can’t deal with Muslim children in a different way from anybody else and they can’t bypass the parents,” she added.
Joanne Kennett, the headteacher at St Edward’s, rejected the mother’s accusations.
“As a Catholic school, all our children are treated equally and we pride ourselves on the diversity of our pupil intake and community,” she told the Sunday Times.
“There have been disclosures made of a similar nature from children who were not from Muslim families and the same course of action has been taken.”
In January 2015, a counter-terrorism measure proposed by the government forced nursery school staff and registered childminders to report toddlers at risk of becoming terrorists.
The directive is contained in a 39-page consultation document issued by the Home Office in a bid to bolster its Prevent anti-terrorism plan.
Critics said the idea was “unworkable” and “heavy-handed”, and accused the Government of treating teachers and carers as “spies”.