Police called after anti-vaxxers send school staff violent threats

A headteacher has contacted the police after staff at his school received “abusive” and violent threats from anti-vaccine campaigners.

David Phillips, head of Chilwell School in Beeston, Nottingham, also said an “unwelcome visitor” walked on to the site and entered the reception area before handing him a mocked up “cease and desist” letter.

Mr Philips is now making preparations for possible protests outside the school after receiving threatening phone calls, emails and a “poster attack” in just 48 hours.

The headteacher said he had contacted the police about the rise in activity at the school and condemned the actions of the anti-vaccination campaigners as “reprehensible”.

His comments come after a minister insisted teachers should not face “unacceptable” pressure from anti-vaccination protesters as the COVID-19 jab was rolled out to children aged between 12 and 15.

On Thursday, Conservative frontbencher Alex Burghart condemned “dreadful anti-vaccination protests” taking place outside schools – which are primarily the sites where vaccines are being offered to children.

The Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) has urged campaigners to stop targeting schools, a number of which protesters have reportedly been leafleting.

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Chilwell School pupils were handed campaign leaflets near the site in the summer term and posters were put up in the car park accusing the school of “treating children like experimental animals”.

When the school began seeking consent from parents for the COVID-19 vaccination in the last week, the headteacher said incidents involving anti-vaccination campaigners had become “more frequent”.

But Mr Phillips said he had “every confidence” that the harassment was not from parents or students.

He said: “In the last 48 hours I can now count up one poster attack, two voice messages, either left on the answering machine or directly to reception, I’ve had about five or six email contacts from people, and today (Thursday) also an unwelcome visitor on to the school site and into our reception.”

Mr Phillips said the campaigner who had walked into the school reception area handed him the mocked up “cease and desist” letter while filming the incident.

The headteacher added: “I have been in fairly frequent communication with the police through this week with the rise of the incidents mainly in order so they have a full picture of the kind of activities that take place… In the last 24 hours I’ve had two abusive and threatening messages.

“One voicemail message, the other was a phone call into the receptionist who was threatening violence.”

Headteacher David Phillips has contacted the police as anti-vaccination campaigners have targeted his school staff
Image: Headteacher David Phillips has contacted the police as anti-vaccination campaigners have targeted his school staff

He added that the voicemail message used “obscene language” and mentioned him personally.

Mr Phillips said: “I don’t feel that actually they have rocked my boat at all, but their behaviour remains reprehensible.”

Recent guidance from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) suggests that headteachers should contact police if they believe protests could be held outside their buildings.

Mr Phillips said: “We are very conscious about needing to make sure that we keep our students safe when they are arriving and leaving school.”

When asked whether the school was making preparations in case protests are held outside the gates in the future, he replied: “Indeed. Yes we are.”

He added: “It’s important that we have something in place that would mean there would be minimal impact for any of our students who attend school and I’m reassured that our dialogue with the police means there would be immediate action.”

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