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Hampstead teacher: Leave those kids alone!

What right does a North London head teacher have to report an "anarchist" student blogger to the police?

By Padraig Reidy / 6 September, 2013

hampstead-trashPavan Amara of London’s Camden New Journal has an astonishing story of a head teacher who reported a former pupil to the police, apparently because he student was becoming “more and more enchanted by anti-establishment ways of thinking”.

Jacques Szemalikowski, head at the Hampstead School in North London, said he was worried that A-Level student Kinnan Zaloom, 19, was  “developing into an anarchist” and that he was duty bound to report the teenager to the police for “extremism”. Szemalikowski also contacted Glasgow University, where Zaloom had applied to study, to warn them of his dangerous tendencies.

Szemalikowski told the CNJ:

I must do something. 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.

Zaloom set up a satirical blog called Hampstead Trash in February of this year. The blog has frequently criticised the way the school is run. Zaloom no longer writes for the blog, having finished school this summer, but it is kept up by current students. It is blocked on the school’s computers.

An editorial posted on the blog last night said in response to the head’s comments to the CNJ said:

You called us dangerous. You called Kinnan “a developing anarchist”. Regardless of Kinnan’s political views and whether he believes in it or not, agreeing with anarchism is not illegal. And we aren’t dangerous. We have never threatened to attack or harm anything or anyone. The only danger is to your ego. We aren’t a paramilitary, we aren’t fighting a dictator who will gas those who don’t agree. All we do is post a few jokes at the school’s expense, often about students and their habits, not at the staff themselves; then occasionally we criticise your and your SLT’s decisions, like the change from 8:40 to 8:35, or giving Sixth-formers late detentions.

Zaloom, who has been banned from the school grounds, told the CNJ: “[W]hat 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.”

Szemalikowski confirmed that he would have excluded Zaloom in that circumstance.

If there’s one consolation to this story, it’s that the police have not been in touch with Zaloom to follow up on Szemalikowski allegations of anarchist extremism.

But it does raise serious questions; if Szemalikowski idea of dangerous anarchism is the notion that governments might be corrupt, how much thought policing is he willing to engage in. Will the young people of Hampstead, home of some of history’s greatest radicals, from Shelley, to Freud to Michael Foot, be allowed think for themselves anymore?

(HT @BrianWhelanHack)

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About Padraig Reidy

Padraig Reidy Padraig Reidy is former senior writer at Index on Censorship. He has also written for the Observer, the Guardian, and the Irish Times.

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3 Responses to Hampstead teacher: Leave those kids alone!

  1. Nicky Nichols, Borehamwood, Herts UK Reply

    8 September at 07:59

    Mr Zaloom is to be congratulated for having taken a strong stand against this head teacher. If anybody is to be investigated for anarchist thinking, it is likely to be Mr Zsemalikowski himself.

  2. frank bath Reply

    6 September at 14:29

    Szemalikowski. An anarchist name if ever I heard one.

  3. Aendrew Reply

    6 September at 12:57

    Wow, this headteacher is mental. I remember writing a report on Anarchism for a social studies class when I was in secondary school about a decade ago, and nobody batted an eyelash. Got a good mark on it too, if memory serves!

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