Government acceptance of the Maurice Smith review recommendation not to ban British National Party members from working in state schools is a dereliction of duty. It beggars belief that, in response to a brief from Education Secretary Ed Balls asking the review members to look at measures to prevent the promotion of racism in schools, they have done the opposite. But most damaging of all, Balls has accepted the Smith review in its entirety. When it comes to recommendations from statutory pay review bodies for public services, the government feels free to ignore as much as it wants, but, in the case of protecting children from the toxic growth of racism, it swallows the lot. Ministers accept correctly the need to proscribe the BNP in the prison service and the police, understanding the danger of racist prison and police officers discriminating against members of minority ethnic groups. How much more important is it that children should be legally protected from an insidious racist agenda?
Our schools cannot be neutral on the question of racism. On the contrary, teachers and other staff have a specific duty to defend racial equality and to ensure that every child, irrespective of background, is guaranteed a fair opportunity in the education system. State schools have a proud record of promoting an equality agenda, encouraging children to learn about other parts of the world where their classmates' parents come from and stressing the need for mutual respect. While all public services, under the Race Relations Act 2000, have a duty to eliminate race discrimination and to promote equality of opportunity, this is most critical for schools. Teachers are in a special position of authority and any devaluation by them of any particular section of society, no matter how subtle, will have a disastrous effect on students. Racism is not simply an undercurrent in the BNP; it is the group's reason to exist. BNP members do not restrict their racism to evenings and weekends, spending their working hours contributing fully to schools' promotion of equality and respect.
And, as Judge Paul Collins has ruled at Central London County Court, its new membership rules, which were drafted to thwart the threat of an injunction from the Equality and Human Rights Commission, are still discriminatory against ethnic minorities. Some people try to present the BNP as having turned over a new leaf, opting for respectability by ditching the jackboots and nazi uniforms for suits and ties and prioritising participation in the democratic process over kicking their way into the headlines. But there is ample evidence, not least in the comments of BNP fuehrer Nick Griffin to a Ku Klux Klan leader, that this is simply a tactic to gull the gullible. The reality remains that, each time a BNP member wins a local election seat, there is a consequent rise in racist violence in the area. BNP spokespeople either deny this or suggest that it is a coincidence. In any case, it is a coincidence that we can't afford. The Education Secretary's only saving grace has been to accept that this issue will remain live and that there will a further opportunity for review this September. This shoddy and unacceptable review must be superseded by a blanket ban on BNP members working in any capacity, teacher or support staff, in our schools.
A blog for the socially and politically conscious, written by a young, gay activist who strongly believes in equality and justice.