May I add my voice to the condemnation of UKIP Councillor Richard Hilton’s complaint against Jackie Schneider for her relatively innocuous tweets.
Coun Hilton may or may not like what Ms Schneider tweets, but for him to make them a matter of formal complaint to the two Merton schools where she teaches undermines the principle of free speech for which this country is rightly renowned, and is an abuse of his position as a councillor.
It is longer than I care to remember that I first became involved in local politics, whilst a teacher employed in Merton.
The then Conservative Secretary of State for Education had just confirmed that teachers should not be politically restricted.
I remain grateful for that instance of common sense, giving me the freedom to criticise much else that the Conservatives have done in the intervening years.
Whilst Ms Schneider is not herself politically active in that sense, her contributions enrich debate on all sorts of subjects, from UKIP narrow-mindedness to the rather more important happenings on the Archers.
She, and all of Merton’s teachers and all the staff employed in our schools, deserve reassurance that they will not be taken to task for participating in public debate, because of vexatious complaints from a bully-boy UKIP councillor.
Having asked the Director of Children’s Services to keep me informed on how the complaint was being dealt with, I was delighted to be told that Ms Schneider has sensibly been informed by both schools that neither will be taking any action.
Ms Schneider may tweet to her heart’s content and Coun Hilton may take a running jump.
Finally, whilst writing, may I express my appreciation for the dedication and commitment of the staff in all our schools, who are achieving ever better results for our children, and whose successes were rightly celebrated by the cross-party Merton committee that I have the honour to chair, at its February meeting.
Councillor Jeff Hanna; Chairman of the Children and Young People Scrutiny Panel, London Borough of Merton
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