Excluded student: 'They were just waiting for Jesse to make a mistake'

Father of award-winning black student excluded from school claims his son was unfairly targeted
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The Independent Online

Andrew Thompson and his son Jesse, 16, live in Tottenham. Jesse was permanently excluded from a school in north London last month, but he is appealing against the decision.

"The incident happened on 3 November, just after school closing time in the building. Someone threw a lit firework towards Jesse and he panicked and picked it up and threw it down some stairs, but not towards anybody. Jesse came in on Monday and I got a call to tell me that Jesse had been permanently excluded.

"The next day, there was a similar incident with a white boy who had brought fireworks to school himself and was caught red-handed with them.

"We were asked to attend a governors' meeting about the exclusion on Friday morning. We were told after the weekend that Jesse could not come back to school because he had lit a firework. He did not throw this firework at anyone, but witnesses say they saw him running away so they thought it was him. He confessed that he had picked it up, that's all. You are supposed to have strong evidence for an exclusion, but there is none in this case.

"He is supposed to be doing his mocks this week and GCSEs next summer. The other boy who was caught with fireworks is now back in school.

"I don't know why Jesse is excluded but I see it as discrimination, maybe it is because the other boy is white that he didn't get excluded. They were waiting for Jesse to make a mistake. He is a two-time winner of the 'Afro-Caribbean Award for Outstanding Students'. If we don't win the appeal it is going to be hard for Jesse because he is already enrolled at the school to do his GCSEs."

Jesse in his own words:

"It was Friday afternoon after lessons and I was coming down the stairs with a few friends when a firework landed in front of me. I panicked and threw it to one side and waited for it to explode and then I got my friends and got out. I didn't think much more of it until Monday when the head teacher called me in for an interview. It was weird, because he kept sending me outside after talking to me for a bit, but in total we spoke for about twenty minutes. Then he called me back in - he was all smiles at this point - and told me I was expelled.

"I felt scared and shocked... The other boy is a friend of mine and he was caught red-handed but he got treated very differently... He got his letter to say he could go back, but I didn't."

Ian Griggs

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