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Controversial Hampstead Trash satirical blog to expand into other schools

PUBLISHED: 15:00 28 February 2014

The Hampstead Trash editorial team

The Hampstead Trash editorial team

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The mysterious team of pupils behind a secondary school's ­infamous satirical blog - whose editor was reported to police by his headteacher - are to help set up similar blogs at other schools.

One year of controversy

The Hampstead Trash was founded by former sixth-form student Kinnan Zaloom, now a maths student at Portsmouth University, on February 9, 2013.

In July, Kinnan Zaloom revealed himself as the editor of the blog after finishing his A-level exams. In what came to be known as “Trashgate,” Kinnan was banned from the school grounds and reported to police.

Hampstead School headteacher Jacques Szemalikowski also rang the pupil’s first choice university to warn Kinnan was “entranced by anarchistic ideology”.

The current editorial team have named the saga as one of their highlights from the last year as it “reaffirmed and solidified what the blog was about”.

The team’s exposure of a data protection blunder in January, where personal details of more than 400 pupils were left on a public server at Hampstead School for anyone to view, was also said to be a “turning point” for the blog.

The anonymous editorial team of The Hampstead Trash, which scrutinises the way Hampstead School is run, will help students from schools as far away as Wales set up their own versions of the Trash blog.

The pupils, who are all of different ages and are in a range of year groups, revealed the news in the first in-depth interview with members of the blog since former editor Kinnan Zaloom, then 18, was reported to police and banned from the school grounds by headteacher Jacques Szemalikowski in July last year. “We have had a few ­requests from students who attend schools as far away as Wales, who wanted to set up something in likeness with the Trash,” the team told the Ham & High.

“Now we feel we have the ability to guide other students in doing the same thing.

“We have been in contact with students in schools in Camden and elsewhere, and if any readers of this interview want more information about setting up their own Trash, they can contact us through email or social networks.

“Any blogs that do arise in other schools would become part of the Trash network, and would be ­endorsed by us.”

After former editor Kinnan revealed his identity on the blog following his A-level exams last year, headteacher Mr Szemalikowski rang Glasgow University, his first choice of institution, to warn them that the teenager had become increasingly “enchanted” by anarchism and individualism.

He later told the student that he would have been expelled had he been any younger. The editorial team, who no longer have an editor, want to remain anonymous in the light of the action taken against their former editor.

But despite such threats, the current editorial team are not afraid to continue with the blog.

“A quote from the head that definitely haunts us is that ‘If he had been younger, he would have been expelled,’” a team member said.

“This worries us partly because this man, who is responsible for the education of over 1,200 students, would be willing to derail their educational career during, for instance, their GCSEs or A-levels, hence our strong anonymity policy. Certainly Kinnan being treated in such a malicious way by the management made us feel that he had been unjustly treated, and also made us fearful that for doing the right thing, we would be punished.

“However, this made us even more determined in continuing our work, until Hampstead is a school where free speech of this level is openly accepted.”

Mr Szemalikowski was recently chosen to drive a national project to improve the progress of disadvantaged or disabled children at school.

The Hampstead Trash, which has just marked its one-year ­anniversary, was blocked on the school’s network in April last year.

But the team said they know many staff members are dedicated readers of the blog.

When asked if any of them have a guilty conscience about their criticism of the school and its headteacher, the team replied with a firm “no”. “We support the teachers and the work they do, because we can see every day that they work hard to make sure students succeed,” they said.

“We always make sure that no teachers, bar the head, are mentioned by name, and we only publicly reveal misgivings because that is the only way we know that something will be done about them.

“It is not us at fault when we reveal any misconduct, it is the school, and therefore it is they that should bear the consequences for their misgivings.”

A spokesperson for Hampstead School said: “As a rights respecting school, there are many channels through which students can express their views, including school council and suggestion boxes.”

Mr Szemalikowski has been at the school since September 2006.

n Visit the blog at http://hampsteadtrash.blogspot.co.uk and email thehampsteadtrash@gmail.com for information about setting up a Trash blog at your school.

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