Staff at a nursery school threatened to refer a four-year-old boy to a de-radicalisation programme after he drew pictures they thought showed his father making a “cooker bomb”, according to the child’s mother.
She criticised the handling of the incident by the nursery, which is understood to be a private one in Luton, and said her upset was compounded when she confronted a staff member.
“I said: ‘When you look at me from where do I look like a terrorist?’ … and she said: ‘Well, did Jimmy Savile look like a paedophile?’” the woman told the BBC.
In an emotional interview, she said: “The first time that I even spoke to them they said: ‘Your children might not be taken off you … you can prove yourself innocent.”
The incident centres on a drawing in which the boy depicted his father cutting a cucumber with a knife. Staff reportedly thought it referred to a “cooker bomb” – an apparent reference to a type of improvised explosive device.
The mother indicated that staff had first become concerned in November but had failed to involve her.
Insisting that her son had never talked about bombs or blowing things up, she said the experience had been “incredibly upsetting”.
“That is the worst thing,” she said. “I don’t see myself as anything different from yourself. I see myself as British as you. I don’t feel that it was right. I felt it was really unfair for me to be accused like that.”
Luton council confirmed it was aware of the case. Bedfordshire police said they were not involved.
The issue comes against the backdrop of a debate about how schools and teachers are dealing with the pressures of government anti-extremism initiatives, designed tostop British youngsters being lured by Islamic State propaganda.
The issue has been a particularly sensitive one in Luton, where 19 children were referred last year to a panel which assesses those at risk from radicalisation.
The 2014/15 report by Luton local safeguarding children board recorded that they had been referred to a panel scrutinising cases for possible interventions under Channel, which is part of the government’s Prevent counter-terrorism programme.
In 2013/14 the panel dealt with 11 cases and Luton borough council said the increase in referrals was due to a greater awareness of the support for people “identified as being vulnerable to radicalisation”.
A Muslim schoolboy in north London was questioned last year about Islamic State after a classroom discussion about environmental activism, the Guardian revealed.
The parents of the 14-year-old said they were taking legal action after the boy was left “scared and nervous” by his experience with school officials, and was left reluctant to join in class discussions for fear of being suspected of extremism.