Irish Schools Must Act Over Racist Bullying

OVER FIFTY percent of ethnic minority pupils in Northern Ireland have reported racial abuse according to a report.

The report, called Promoting Racial Equality, was compiled by the Northern Ireland Council for Ethnic Minorities, (NICEM) and included pupils at two post-primary schools in the Tyrone area, revealed the extent of racism in the Northern Ireland school system.

The results of the study have led to the NICEM requesting a comprehensive revision of how racism is dealt with in local schools.

The news follows an October 2010 report in the local Tyrone Times about how a 13-year-old schoolgirl from Dungannon, suffered racist abuse from three pupils on social networking site Facebook.

Eoin Rooney, Research Officer at NICEM and the author of the survey spoke of the need to highlight and address the issues.

“Our survey of ethnic minority students found that 54 per cent have been racially bullied while in post-primary school. As the incident reported in the Tyrone Times demonstrates, racist bullying takes many forms. In our survey 76 per cent of those bullied have been called racist names, 25 per cent have been verbally threatened, 16 per cent have been physically attacked, and 7 per cent have been subject to online bullying. Each school is free to decide how to deal with racist bullying. This leads to huge variation, with some schools dealing with the issue effectively, and others taking inappropriate action or no action at all.”

NICEM want a number of changes in order to better handle such incidents. “Firstly, schools should be required to monitor the number and nature of bullying incidents,” Rooney said.

“Among other things, this would force schools to recognise that there is ‘a problem’ which has to be addressed. Secondly, we would like the Department of Education to issue guidance to schools on how to deal with racist bullying. Thirdly, parents should be provided with information on what to do if they are unhappy with how a school handles bullying. Finally, we are recommending legislative change that would require schools to prevent racist bullying.”