Friday, 6 September 2013

School Reports A-Level Student To Police About His Interest In Anarchism

UPDATE: The Guardian has written an excellent piece, 'Hampstead School's 'anarchist' blogger should not facecensure'. 

Original article below.

Headteacher tells police of pupil 'enchanted by anarchism' and tips off his chosen university 

Kinnan Zaloom, 19, labelled teachers as Orwellian totalitarian characters in The Hampstead Trash blog. Blog blocked in April by headmaster Jacques Szemalikowski. Headmaster of Hampstead School said he was 'duty bound' to prevent 'violent extremism' of student 'developing into an anarchist'. Blog now being run by anonymous current student.

A London headteacher reported an A-Level student to police and informed the university he had applied for that the teenager had succumbed to 'violent extremism' after he criticised the school in a blog.

Jacques Szemalikowski, the headmaster of Hampstead School, told 19-year-old Kinnan Zaloom never to return to the school grounds again after he set up a website [they also have a facebook page (and have written a 'final note' on the matter on their blog)] attacking the way it was run.

And he informed the school's on-site policemen and Glasgow University, where Mr Zaloom hoped to take a degree, that the student could be 'developing into an anarchist.

The Hampstead Trash, which Mr Zaloom started in February, contained a series of colourfully-worded articles that likened the school staff to characters in George Orwell's anti-totalitarian novels - most notably casting Mr Szemalikowski in the role of Animal Farm's chief pig, Napoleon.

In a style that he likened to that of the irreverent satirical magazine Private Eye, the young blogger accused the school of failing to push GCSE results any higher, a lack of investment in musical instruments and gym equipment, and of not listening to pupils' views.

[Left] Trash: A post from Mr Zaloom's blog, run along with several students, which slammed the school management using the fruitiest of language.

Mr Szemalikowski confirmed yesterday that he had blocked the blog from school computers in April and condemned the articles as 'mad writings'.

He said he had 'major concerns and was duty bound under legal acts for the prevention of violent extremism' and that he was 'erring on the side of caution' in taking action.

'It is fairly worrying stuff,' he added.

Mr Szemaliskowski said he was particularly concerned 'that Kinnan has mentioned the ideologies of anarchism and individualism on this blog'.

'I must do something,' he said. 'In the last year he has become more and more enchanted by anti-establishment ways of thinking and has even said that there is an inherent risk that every government is corrupt.

[Left] School for scandal: Hampstead School in Camden, north London, teaches around 1,300 pupils.

'I am not an expert in these matters but I had training in how to look for things that might need a second opinion. I didn’t think it was illegal but the undertones towards the end made me think - does this need a second opinion?

'I phoned Glasgow to warn them what sort of person they were dealing with, to advise them that this person thinks thoughts like these, and they could then make an informed decision. 

'I am duty bound to do that.'

The headteacher added: 'I also reported what he had written to the police, and the officer I spoke to said he would pass these mad writings of his on to a colleague.'

Neither Mr Szemalikowski nor Mr Zaloom has since heard from police.

[Left] Bloggers: The website is 'edited' by students under the pseudonyms Heywood Jablome and Cllr. Hugh G. Rection.

The north-west London school caters for around 1,300 pupils, with former students including novelist Zadie Smith, women’s England international footballer Rachel Yankey and actress Sadie Frost.

The blog is now being updated by another, anonymous student as Mr Zaloom has left the school.

In his final post on the blog, Mr Zaloom wrote: 'This past year, I have become more and more enchanted by the ideology of anarchism and individualism.'

He added: 'I am not hailing anarchism as the only way of life, just pointing out that any type of government has the risk of being corrupt and vile.'

Mr Zaloom said he had been summoned to the headteacher’s office on his last day and interrogated about his articles, before he was warned never return to the school site - even to pick up his A-level exam results - because the work was 'offensive'.

One article that caused particular trouble commented that the school was 'playing the school league tables' in terms of how results were presented.

It claimed there were tensions among staff members about the way the school was run, outlined in phrases such as: 'So f*** you school management, f*** you.'

Another article read: 'The school claims again and again that it listens to students needs and that it takes into consideration what students say and care about. This is utter horses***. So much horses*** indeed, that findus’ lasagne is bewildered' - referring to the scandal earlier last year, when ready meals were found to contain horse meat.

The article went on: 'The school magazine is not worth the paper it is printed on and does s*** all to voice student consensus.'

Mr Zaloom, who did not get the grades he needed to get into Glasgow and will be studying mathematics at Portsmouth University, said: 'They said I had brought the school into disrepute. I said that was their opinion, but nothing I had done was illegal so why such severe action?

'I was prepared to apologise for the language. But what worries me is if I had been a year younger they said they would have expelled me halfway through my A-levels, and that means they would have been prepared to ruin my education because they didn’t like my thoughts.

'It was useless to call the police because I didn’t break the law.

'I was concerned he’d called Glasgow because I’m worried he would go to those lengths of intimidation to control a student’s thoughts. But I wasn’t too panicked because it turned out I didn’t have the grades to get in there anyway.'

Mr Zaloom, who co-founded a debating society at the school, compared his treatment to those fighting for press freedom in the Middle East.

He said: 'Obviously it’s not on the same scale at all, this injustice is small, I know that. But my family are from Jordan so I know how things work there, and newspapers are not allowed to write what they want.

'Everybody is controlled, and I can see that happening here. It reminds me of Ingsoc [a totalitarian government in the Orwell novel Nineteen Eighty-Four], people must conform or they are out.

'When he blocked the blog from the school’s computers that was bizarre. How does he find the time to go round doing things like that?'

Mr Szemalikowski defended his actions, saying: 'He posted lies about the school and I will not tolerate that.

'His posts were scattered with the f-word and c-word and if a student spoke like that in school they would be expelled. So of course I blocked the blog, and told him never to come back. 

'He’s right, if he had been younger, he would have been expelled.

'It would have been his responsibility that he ruined his education, not mine.'

He added that if Mr Zaloom had not used bad language he would still have warranted an expulsion 'for his mad ideas and ranting'.

Mr Zaloom said he wanted to thank 'a lot of the very good teachers at Hampstead School' but felt they were not given the chance to 'teach the way they want to'.


Related article of interest

* Facebook: National-Anarchist Movement Central Group (N-AM)
* Facebook: National-Anarchist Earth & Animal Activism Network
* Facebook: National-Anarchist Permaculture Information Network
* Facebook: National-Anarchist Survivalist and Preparedness Circle
* Facebook: National-AnarchistFrance
* Facebook: National-Anarchist Spanish Speaking Resistance
* Contacts: N-AM Links