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A 14-year-old girl with disabilities is scared to have open discussions with her school friends. Under new guidance, she could receive a police record for expressing her views.
Help her challenge the College of Policing’s Authorised Professional Practice Guidance on Hate Crime (APPHCG) in order to protect her own freedom of expression and that of other children in her class.
About the Claimant
Miss B. is 14 years old. She is the middle child of a happy family. She has an auditory processing disorder, dyslexia, and wears a hearing-aid. She enjoys meaningful discussions about important issues, and considers herself “gender-critical”. She believes that sex is distinct from gender identity, and that it is immutable.
Child B said : “ I became aware of the transgender issue when I saw males in women's sport and I feel it’s totally unfair that biological boys should be able to compete against girls. I feel frightened to speak openly about my beliefs at school and I am afraid I will be judged as wrong. I have to be so careful about what and how I say things and my processing is not quick enough so I end up feeling silenced and frustrated.
I would be terrified if the police turned up at school if I had expressed views that anyone found hateful. There are transgender pupils at my school and I respect them and their choices. I do not understand them though and I do not believe that a girl can become a boy. “
Like many teenagers, Miss B. likes to discuss cultural issues with her friends and peers as part of a diverse and open school environment. However, the new APPHCG guidance from the College of Policing could see a “non-hate crime incident” recorded against her name, should a person to whom she is speaking – or a third party, such as a teacher or fellow pupil who did not even witness the incident – report her, however unfairly or mistakenly, for expressing hostile or prejudiced views.
The APPHCG defines a “non-crime hate incident” as “any non-crime incident which is perceived by the victim or any other person to be motivated by hostility or prejudice based on” a person’s actual or perceived race, religion, sexual orientation, disability or a person who is or is perceived as transgender. “Hostility” is said by the APPHCG to include “ill-will, ill-feeling, spite, contempt, prejudice, unfriendliness, antagonism, resentment, and dislike”. The APPHCG explains that “the victim does not have to justify or provide evidence of their belief [that the incident is motivated by hostility or prejudice] for the purposes of reporting, and police officers or staff should not directly challenge this perception.”
By vaguely defining “hostility” to even include the perception of “dislike”, the power given to the police to punish a pupil with a police record is alarmingly broad. The guidance completely defies duties placed on maintained schools to provide a balanced and broadly based curriculum pursuant to the Education Act 2002. Further, the Education Act 1996 requires local authorities, governing bodies and headteachers to forbid “the promotion of partisan political views in the teaching of any subject”. Section 407 of that Act specifically requires that “where political issues are brought to the attention of pupils”, they should be “offered a balanced presentation of opposing views”.
Rather than being welcomed to participate in a balanced discussion, Miss B. could suffer consequences even if she had absolutely no intention of demonstrating hostility or prejudice towards anyone. Since her dyslexia and auditory processing disorder poses challenges to her communication, she finds herself at increased risk of misunderstanding others, or indeed, her words or tone themselves being misunderstood. Held back by fear of ruining future career prospects, Miss B. feels she must resort to “self-censoring” in the classroom – the very room in which she should be free to learn and discuss.
Debate around “gender issues” is rife throughout the media, with the country being far from consensus on many aspects of the discussion. School pupils ought to be encouraged to engage with, debate, critique and discuss serious issues with openness to hearing many different viewpoints. However, if Miss. B. and others with varying opinions are stifled from participating within the learning environment, the young generation will lose out on the chance to learn tolerance, understanding and respect. A child should not lose their future simply for holding an opinion.
Support Miss B’s Challenge
Miss B. intends to challenge the APPHCG on the grounds that the recording of “non-hate crime incidents” breaches date protection law; violates the fundamental right to freedom of expression; and that in adopting the APPHCG, the College of Policing breached the Public Sector Equality Duty.
While it may be necessary for police to gather intelligence on people who pose a genuine risk to society, the APPGCG’s guidance would lead to malicious reports wasting police time at best, and children’s futures at worst. The consequences of this challenge go beyond the walls of the classroom. School pupils who learn to self-censor become citizens who will do the same. In a democracy, everyone should be free to speak without fear of being punished – especially children, who are at the earliest stages of forming their opinions.
To challenge these worrying guidelines, Miss B. is initially asking for £15,000 to get her case up and running.
Please join Miss B. in standing up for tolerance, free speech and fair futures for all children – whatever their views or opinions may be.
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