Could your school inadvertently be promoting terrorism?
A reminder to schools & charities following an inquiry that found a charity had permitted its website and social media to promote terrorist causes.
Last year the Charity Commission published an inquiry report into a charity which was found to have permitted its website and social media platforms to promote terrorist causes. This is a reminder for schools, and all charities, of the need to monitor use of their social media and websites by those associated with the school to ensure it is used properly and in compliance with any relevant school policy.
The Didi Nwe Organisation existed to support Kurdish people in Birmingham. As part of its inquiry the Charity Commission found that its website and chat room had several references to an individual who had close associations with a proscribed terrorist organisation. It also found that one of its trustees had uploaded anti-Western videos to You Tube, many of which bore the name of the charity.
The Charity Commission found that the trustees had breached their duties to act in the best interests of the charity, by allowing its website and chat room facility to be used as a platform for an individual with suspected links to terrorism. Even though the material on the website was not itself contentious, the trustees had placed the charity’s reputation at risk by failing to exercise proper and responsible control over the use of its resources.
There are a number of lessons which schools can learn from this inquiry:
- Ensure that your website accurately reflects what the school or academy trust does, and that these activities reflect your educational purposes. Make sure your website is up-to-date and accurate.
- You must have a social media policy, with guidelines about what may, and may not, be promoted through those channels. Consider the process by which tweets, retweets, ‘likes’ or shares are authorised before being carried out in the school’s name, and keep track of who has access to your social media channels, such as Facebook, Twitter, You Tube and the array of online platforms.
- Ensure that the good name of the school is not brought into disrepute by inappropriate activities, or by associations with inappropriate organisations or individuals. This includes fundraising activities, school trips and activities of governors (including academy members and directors) as well as by staff and pupils.
- Consider putting in place a procedure which sets out how the school will deal with any contact it has with ‘designated’ individuals or entities, i.e. those who are suspected of terrorism. Those individuals and entities are often subject to financial restrictions or have their assets frozen, and governors and staff should be alive to the risks.
Above all, governors should regularly review the content of the school website and related social media to make sure they are complying with their duties to act in the school’s best interests and to protect its property (which includes its reputation). This responsibility could be delegated to a single governor or to an employee, but the governors (academy directors) retain ultimate responsibility as a board, so should remain vigilant.
If you would like to discuss any aspect of this article further or if you have any questions relating to relating to education or charity law matters please contact Laura Moss on 0113 244 6100.
The information in this article is necessarily of a general nature. Specific advice should be sought for specific situations. If you have any queries or need any legal advice please feel free to contact Wrigleys Solicitors