Dealing with Racist Incidents
Guidance for Schools
Dealing with Racist Incidents in Schools
The Stephen Lawrence Inquiry report states that "a racist incident is any incident which is perceived to be racist by the victim or any other person."
This means that if anyone - the victim, a witness, parent or staff member - perceives an incident as racist, it should be investigated and recorded as such, though the investigation may determine that the incident was not racially motivated.
Racist incidents can involve any member of the school community and may be:
- pupil to pupil
- pupil to adult
- adult (teacher, parent, support staff, visitor to school) to pupil
- adult to adult
Some incidents may not involve a direct victim and these are described as 'victimless'. This is where, for example, a pupil makes derogatory comments about a particular racial group but there are no members of that group in the classroom.
Some other typical examples of racist incidents include:
- incitement of others to behave in a racist way such as bringing racist leaflets, magazines or computer software into school
- physical assault against a person or group because of colour, race and/or ethnicity
- verbal abuse and threats
- derogatory name-calling, insults, racist jokes and language
- racist graffiti - wearing racist badges or insignia and other provocative behaviour
- racist comments during lessons
- attempts to recruit other pupils and students to racist organisations and groups
- refusal to co-operate with other people because of their colour, ethnicity, language, accent or dialect
- ridiculing someone because of their cultural differences
All racist incidents, no matter how trivial they seem, should be investigated as quickly as possible. In order to optimise witness recall this should preferably be within one hour (or as soon as possible thereafter) of the incident taking place. It may be helpful to nominate a lead person responsible for investigating racist incidents. This person does not have to be a headteacher but should be a senior member of staff.
Schools should adopt an agreed approach for investigating racial incidents. For example, in the case of minor incidents it may be sufficient to obtain a verbal account from those involved. For more serious incidents, schools may wish to obtain a written statement that both victim and perpetrator sign and agree to as an accurate record of the incident. This will be particularly helpful in cases where there are no additional witnesses to the incident.
When investigating the incident, the school should respond appropriately to both the nature of the racist incident and to its level of seriousness. The school should be mindful of factors such as:
- the age and level of understanding of the perpetrator
- whether the perpetrator intended to inflict physical or emotional harm on the victim/s and whether they were aware of the effects of their action
- whether actual and/or serious physical or emotional harm was inflicted on the victim/s
- whether the incident was a one-off or part of a pattern
Keeping a record of racist incidents is important because it shows both the victim and the perpetrator that the school takes the issue of racism seriously. It also demonstrates the way in which the school is meeting the legal requirements of the Race Relations (Amendment) Act.
Reporting systems should be made easy so that all staff and pupils know the systems and feel encouraged to use them.
It is important that reports on incidents should be kept confidential to minimise repercussions for the victim.
The form in Appendix 1 should be used for recording all reported incidents and complaints. Once completed, a copy of this form should then be sent to the LEA for monitoring purposes and to enable the local authority to provide further advice, support and guidance if needed. The form may be sent by post or completed on-line via the Schools Grid on the Tameside MBC website. This information will be aggregated to analyse patterns of racist incidents in Tameside schools and to monitor changes in the number and nature of incidents over time. The LEA will not publish or report information on racist incidents on a school-by-school basis.
In addition, all incidents and the action taken should be reported to the governing body as part of the head teacher's termly report to governors. A suggested form is provided at Appendix 2 for this purpose. This will allow the governing body to monitor the number and type of incidents and to assess the effectiveness of the action taken.
It is good practise for schools to regularly analyse their recorded information to identify trends or patterns regarding the nature of incidents, who is involved and where incidents are happening. This will enable schools to take a proactive approach in preventing racist incidents.
In relation to each incident schools should consider whether it is appropriate to contact the LEA and/or other agencies for support and advice. If an assault takes place and the head teacher considers it to be serious, the matter must be reported immediately to the police and the LEA.
In the case of serious incidents, an assessment will be needed to find out:
- whether the incident was so serious that the whole school community needs to be informed
- whether teachers should explain the circumstances to all pupils
- whether all parents/carers need to be informed
If there are no racist incidents during the school year, a "nil return" should be sent to the LEA using the form in Appendix 3 at the end of the summer term.
To summarise, the process for dealing with any reported incident will need to incorporate the following elements:
- Investigating the incident to establish the facts
- Providing support and assistance to the victim
- Identifying the action to be taken with regard to the perpetrator(s)
- Informing the parents of the victim(s) and perpetrator(s) of the incident and the action taken
- Where a staff member is the victim or perpetrator, ensuring other procedures are followed (e.g. disciplinary or accident reporting)
- Keeping a formal record of the incident, including the action taken where the incident is a serious one, notifying other agencies such as the LEA and/or the Police
- Carrying out regular analysis of the number and nature of racist incidents to inform future policy development
Wherever possible, schools should try to adopt a consistent approach to racist incidents. It is accepted that teachers will use their professional judgement in dealing with specific incidents, however, schools may find the suggestions for action in Appendix 4 useful. In all cases, schools are encouraged to consider seeking the advice of the Community and Race Relations Officer regarding possible police involvement (please call Hyde Police Station 0161 856 9353).