What to do about racist bullying

Britain is a multi-racial and multi-faith country and everyone has the right to have their culture and religion respected by others. Nobody has the right to call your child names or to treat them badly because of their colour, race or religion. It's illegal and it can be stopped. Racist bullying is not just about the colour of your skin, it can be about your ethnic background or religion too. Racist bullying is the only type of bullying that schools must record. 

What is racism?

Racism means you are subjected to abuse and harassment because of your race, colour or beliefs. There is a difference between racial discrimination and racism. Racial discrimination means being treated differently to someone else because of your race, perhaps by being told you cannot wear a turban if you are a Sikh, a yarmulka if you are a Jewish boy or hijaab if you are a Pakistani girl.

The complaints we've had include a girl aged six being told by a classmate that she cannot take the school mouse home because he doesn't like people with brown faces, to more serious incidents involving teenage gangs and weapons, one of which meant a boy was too frightened to return to school. These complaints have come from all parts of the UK and are not confined to any particular area.

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What is racist bullying

In the 1999 MacPherson Report, racist bullying was defined as "any incident which is perceived to be racist by the victim or any other person". Find our more about what anti-bullying policies in schools should cover..

These incidents can include racist abuse, physical threats or attacks, wearing of provocative badges, bringing racist comics or leaflets to school, inciting others to behave in a racist way, racist graffiti and refusing to co-operate with others.

Making a complaint to the police about racist bullying

You need to make a complaint to the police if the school doesn't sort out racial bullying. Most police forces have school liaison officers who should be able to warn the bullies off. In serious cases you could ask whether your local force has a hate crime unit.

The police have been recording racial incidents separately since 1988 and figures have risen nearly every year since then. This is partly due to an increased willingness to become involved but also because it is now much easier to report racist incidents, in some areas you can report them online.

Schools need to know about tensions in their local communities. This information should be provided by the local police. Disputes within the community sometimes end up in school. Schools must keep a record book of the names of perpetrators of racial problems and are expected to work with the police and other agencies including the youth service and the wider community.

If you think your child has been subjected to racial discrimination then you can ask the Equality and Himan Rights Commission for advice on what to do about it. People from every background are covered by the Race Relations Act, there has been a case where an English couple complained of their treatment when they moved to Scotland. The Act applies to all schools and colleges, whether or not they are run by your local council or are private schools. School governors and school boards also have to be mindful of the law which covers admission, how they treat pupils and exclusion as well as decisions on special educational needs.

Racist bullying is an offence

If your child has been threatened or attacked because of his/her race, then you must contact the police. Parents say that the police are generally very helpful and this may be because they are now much more aware of racist issues themselves.

It is now a criminal offence under the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 to racially harass or assault anyone and the Public Order Act 1986 makes it an offence to use threatening, abusive or insulting language or behaviour to stir up racial hatred. Racist leaflets are also outlawed.

Since 2001, amendments to the 1976 Race Relations Act mean that complaints of racial discrimination in education can be brought straight to the county courts (England, Wales and Northern Ireland) or sheriff courts (in Scotland) without having to be referred first to the Secretary of State for Education.

How we can help you

If you would like support and advice, you can talk to one of our Family Support Workers through Live Chat, email us or call our confidential helpline on 0808 800 2222. You can also share experiences and advice with other parents on our Forums.  Family Lives is here for you 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You can contact us about any family issue, big or small.

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