26/05/2010 - Adam Walker cleared in freedom of expression case

altA GTC professional conduct committee on 25 May 2010 ruled that Mr Adam Walker, formerly employed at Houghton Kepier Sports College, Tyne and Wear, was guilty of unacceptable professional conduct in making personal use of a school laptop during lesson time to access internet messaging sites.Mr Walker accepted that his action was not appropriate and has apologised for it.

The Committee cleared Mr Walker of the more serious and contentious allegation that he had expressed views suggestive of racial or religious intolerance.

Explaining their decision the Committee dealt first with criticisms made by Mr Walker of some immigrants pointing out that it did not:-

"accept that references to “immigrants” are of themselves suggestive of any particular views on race. The Committee accepts that immigrants to this country come from all over the world, and indeed a high proportion of them currently come from EU countries. A negative comment about immigration to the UK of itself need not be indicative of racist views or racial intolerance since the race of immigrants is extremely varied".

"...the Committee also accepts that in quite a few of the postings Mr Walker focuses his comments on immigrants who have committed crimes. It also appears that the focus of some of the contributions was criticism of the way in which the UK was being governed".

Another key part of the charge concerned the question of the meaning of tolerance:-

"The Committee’s view is that, to be suggestive of intolerance, the postings would need to deny or refuse to others the right to dissent. That is not evidenced by reading all the entries in which Mr Walker was not the only contributor who expressed aggressive views using harsh and sometimes intemperate language on both sides of the argument. We do not find that the postings themselves were suggestive of intolerance and there is no other evidence relied upon by the Council in relation to this particular".

"In considering its role and adopting an investigative approach, the Committee has also looked at the wider context when testing its views about intolerance. The Committee notes that there is no evidence from the school, or relied upon by the GTC, to suggest that in his professional life, Mr Walker has acted in a way that demonstrated racial or religious intolerance".

"In deciding on a Conditional Registration Order the Committee believes it is suggesting a proportionate sanction that will appropriately balance both the public interest and Mr Walker’s interests. The Committee has had regard to Mr Walker’s previous good history and the relevant testimonials provided as part of the bundle".

When considering the question as to what sanction should be imposed for the lesser charge which was found proven (that of personal use of a school laptop) the Committee noted:-

"There is evidence from the diverse range of testimonials that Mr Walker is a hard working teacher who has helped his pupils improve their attainment and there is no evidence of any concerns about his ability as a teacher. On the contrary the evidence is supportive".

The Committee ruled that Mr Walker should (till 31 July, 2012):-

"provide to the Registrar of the General Teaching Council at the conclusion of each academic year, a report signed by his employer(s) (or any relevant education employment agency) covering the previous academic year, confirming that he has not used any school’s ICT equipment outside the terms of that school’s Responsible Internet Use Policy".

Mr Walker said: "It's a fantastic opportunity for everybody to see that democracy is still alive and that we still have free speech in this country."

Pat Harrington, the General Secretary of Solidarity, who represented Adam Walker throughout commented:-

"Some who were screaming for Adam to be punished and ill-treated will doubtless be disappointed with this outcome. Yet this was a fair and well-reasoned judgement. Some critics (like Chris Keates) were not present at the hearing and commented prior to the full grounds and reasoning of the Committee being published. Whether ill-informed and prejudiced Red Fascists like Keates like it or not our Union Brotherhood will defend Human Rights for all and that includes the fundamental right to freedom of expression".

He went on to praise Union and Civil Liberty demonstrators who supported Adam Walker:-

"Thanks to all those who kept up a peaceful but noisy presence, including whistles, airhorns and a drum, during the two day hearing. Thanks also to Andrew Brons, MEP and Nick Griffin, MEP who came to the hearing to listen to the evidence and the reasoning of the GTC Committee.
Thanks also to the Police who ensured that all those who wished to express their views on either side were able to do so.

Shame on the Red Fascists who demonstrated against Human Rights and Freedom of Expression, refused debate and didn't even bother to consider the evidence in this case".

The full GTC ruling can be downloaded.