No child should ever be subjected to racism, or to mental and physical violation, much less by adults in a position of authority, and in a place which should be one of safety. The shocking reports regarding Child Q are deeply unsettling to me and to my entire team at Khulisa.
As CEO of Khulisa, the youth wellbeing charity, we have worked with vulnerable children and young people for over a decade. Each and every one of these young people have been failed by adults or systems which were designed to protect them. I am deeply saddened to see that yet another child has been the victim of abuses of power and that she is now the bearer of such mental and physical trauma which will live with her forever.
Khulisa works with young people whose lives have been deeply affected by trauma and adversity every day and we know first hand just how long-lasting and deep the damage that has been done to Child Q. We also know that this will be deeply traumatic for observers to the incident, particularly those in the school and local community but also to people across the nation for whom this blatant racism will trigger deep-rooted emotional scars. The official recognition that race was even a consideration for the officers involved demonstrates the level of institutional racism that still exists within our society.
I have to ask myself how was this violation even able to happen? Five police officers were involved, as well as teaching staff who allowed the child to be searched on the school premises, during school hours, without an adult present.
It has been formally acknowledged that racism was a key factor. The Met Police have issued an apology and Hackney’s Mayor has called for the resignation of the headteacher at the school. The very fact that adults, in their positions of power, were able to mentally and physically abuse a child is abhorrent. The fact that these actions – amounting to the state sanctioned abuse and the racist violation of a child – have been allowed to happen with impunity, is unforgivable.
For many children, school is their place of relative safety and security. That a school could be the setting for such a traumatic and racist violation to occur, is a stark reminder of how much work there is yet to do. We need to continue calling for deep systemic change, to ensure that our state systems support and protect the wellbeing and mental health of all our children, at all times and without exception.
We stand with Child Q, her family and her community, in calling out racism, the abuses of power and the institutional failures which lead to this level of trauma.