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Published: 10:00, 21 November 2016
A Kent school has cancelled a talk by a controversial ex-pupil after the Department for Education’s counter extremism unit stepped into the furore.
More than 220 pupils had signed up to hear the talk by Milo Yiannopoulos - a prominent member of the ‘Alt-Right’ movement - at Simon Langton Grammar School for Boys in Canterbury.
The 32-year-old, who was expelled from the Langton, has in the past equated feminism with cancer and told women who felt threatened by online harassment that they should simply log their computers off.
Milo, who works for the US-based news website Breitbart, also supported Donald Trump’s campaign for president.
The Langton says that almost all the opposition to tomorrow's event came from outside the school.
Head teacher Matthew Baxter said: “This decision was taken following contact from the Department For Education’s counter extremism unit, the threat of demonstrations at the school by organised groups and members of the public and our overall concerns for the security of the school site and the safety of our community.
“We note that within 24 hours of advertising the event, more than 220 Langton sixth formers had, with parental consent, signed up for the event and that objection to our hosting Mr Yiannopoulus came almost entirely from people with no direct connection to the Langton.
“The staff and students of the school were overwhelmingly in favour.
“While disappointed that both the pastoral care and intellectual preparation we offer to our students has been called into question, we at the Langton remain committed to the principle of free speech and open debate and will resist, where possible, all forms of censorship.”
The school insists it is unable to disclose what the Department For Education’s counter-extremism unit advised them.
Speaking after learning of the cancellation, Mr Yiannopoulos told the Gazette: "Who even knew the DoE had a counter-extremism unit? And that it wasn't set up to combat terrorism but rather to punish gays with the wrong opinions?
"Perhaps if I'd called my talk "MUSLIMS ARE AWESOME!" the NUT and Department of Education would have been cool with me speaking."
Daniel Hamilton, 30, is a former Langton pupil and believes the school should have allowed Mr Yiannopoulos to speak.
“Milo Yiannoppolous is a stage act – and, like all good actors, he thrives on publicity and notoriety,” Mr Hamilton said.
“The cancellation of his talk only serves to feed his misguided narrative about an effete liberal elite who refuse to have their world view challenged or debated.
“The way to beat bigotry and extremism isn’t to sweep it under the carpet.
"It should be debated, exposed and debased. I’m confident the tolerant, liberal-minded students at the Langton would have done precisely that.”
More by this authorAlex Claridge