In November 2020 the Joint Committee on Human Rights issued a call for evidence on freedom of expression.
They noted that “Freedom of expression is an essential foundation of democratic society, guaranteed by the common law and by Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.”
Safe Schools Alliance has been told by many teachers that they are afraid to speak up about the gender ideology narrative being pushed in schools, whether this be in relation to “affirming” young children as the opposite sex or to other health and safety risks such as breast-binding. We hope that the recent statement from the new chair of Equality and Human Rights Commission will help to bring about a change to this. Baroness Falkner has told The Times newspaper that she is “concerned that current levels of abuse were making it difficult for people to exercise their fundamental rights — protected by the EHRC — such as freedom of speech and belief.”
The Joint Committee on Human Rights’ inquiry focused on the following questions:
- Does hate speech law need to be updated or clarified as shifting social attitudes lead some to consider commonly held views hateful?
- Does current police guidance and practice on hate speech law help promote freedom of expression?
- Is there a need to review the wording and application of Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) legislation?
- What obligations does an employee have to their employer when expressing views on social media, and to what extent can, and should, employers respond to what their employees say on these platforms?
- Is greater clarity required to ensure the law is understood and fair?
- How has the situation changed in universities in the two years since the Committee’s report on the issue?
- Does everyone have equal protection of their right to freedom of expression?
Click to read our submission to the Freedom of Expression Inquiry.
Our response focused on four areas:
- The impact on children’s freedom of expression of guidance produced by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) in conjunction with Stonewall. This was completely withdrawn in January 2021, with no intention of being revised and republished, following legal action against the CPS by a 14 year old girl supported by SSA.
- That it has only been with the threat of legal action that we have been able to prevent a serious impingement upon children’s freedom of expression and safeguarding.
- How certain school policies and educational material, often introduced into schools via lobby groups who are neither experts on safeguarding or human/ children’s rights, have an impact on children’s freedom of expression and safeguarding.
- The prohibitive climate that many of our teacher members have felt when attempting to discuss safeguarding concerns related to transgender or gender ideology, policies and practice