Police are searching for a group of anti-vaccine campaigners who are accused of confronting pupils outside a school with images of dead children.
Parents said their children had been “ambushed” by a group of up to seven anti-vaxxers outside St Thomas More Catholic School in Blaydon, Tyne and Wear, before classes on Monday.
They gathered outside the premises as the school began its coronavirus vaccination programme for pupils aged 12 to 15.
One protester reportedly used a megaphone to spout anti-vaccine conspiracy theories, while others are accused of handing out leaflets to pupils showing images of dead or disfigured children.
Police were called to the school at 8.40am on Monday after complaints from parents and the headteacher but the campaigners had fled before officers arrived.
Many parents said their children had been left “in tears” by the experience.
One parent said: “My 13-year-old daughter called me after she arrived at school saying a woman had tried to force her to take a vile leaflet.
“Apparently it showed a colour picture of a young girl covered in blood and the woman told her the vaccine had killed her.
“Others showed pictures of deformed kids. It was very upsetting and she asked me, ‘Is the jab going to kill me?’
“Some of her friends were in tears. I told her these loonies like upsetting people and to tell the teachers.”
Another mother said: "Our kids shouldn't be getting ambushed by these idiots when they're going to school.”
Headteacher Jonathan Parkinson told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that about 60% of students had given their consent to receive the vaccine.
He said: “We had six or seven protesters on Monday.
“There were two groups, it seemed one who were leafleting the children and regaling through a loud hailer of their views. The children were not really fazed by that.
“There was another couple of protestors who were showing our younger children what appeared to be dead and disfigured children, which they claimed were as a result of the vaccine. This upset quite a few children.
“We were left with quite a number of upset children yesterday. We had to make sure, with our pastoral tutors, that those children who needed support were able to get it.”
Northumbria Police said: “At 8.40am yesterday we received a report of a number of protesters outside a school on Croftdale Road, Blaydon.
“Officers attended the scene but the protesters had already left the area.
“We are continuing to speak with the school in question and enquiries are ongoing to establish whether any criminal offences have taken place.”
Alice Wiseman, director of public health at Gateshead Council, said: “Police are taking very seriously the issues that happened at the school yesterday.
“Whilst it is okay for people to have different views and different perspectives – and we accept that – what isn’t okay is to distress children.
“If people have stepped out of line in terms of taking more severe action, which like I say is distressing children, safeguarding is our first priority and they will take action.”
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