Hate crime in schools up by 62% in a year

The number of transgender-related hate offences at or near schools has more than doubled in a year, police statistics reveal

Tes Reporter

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Hundreds of hate-related crimes have been committed at or near schools and colleges in the past two  years – and the numbers are rising.

A Press Association investigation has found that, in the past academic year alone, an average of around five offences occurred for each day of the school year.

It also indicated a 62 per cent hike in these types of crimes between 2015-16 and 2016-17.

School leaders said it was "disturbing" to see such an increase, but argued that it is still "relatively rare" for these offences to take place in schools and colleges.

Police chiefs emphasised that "significant efforts" have been made to improve recording systems, and to work with other agencies, and that this may largely account for the rise.

Police forces in England and Wales were asked through freedom of information requests how many-hate related offences had taken place in their area where the location of the crime included the words "school" or "college".

In total, there were 1,487 crimes with a hate element at or near schools and colleges in the past two academic years, according to data provided by 29 forces.

Of these, 919 occurred between September 2016 and July 2017 – around five for each day of the school year – compared with 568 for the same period of 2015-16.

This suggests that the number of hate-related offences has risen by nearly two-thirds during this time frame, which covers the period before and after the Brexit referendum.

Last year Tes revealed how reports of hate crimes and hate incidents in schools rose by 89 per cent in the middle of the Brexit campaign.

In some cases, the crimes contained in today's figures may have taken place near schools and colleges, rather than on school property, such as when students were walking home from school, or a crime may have been logged with an educational establishment as the nearest reference point, or as happening close by, such as opposite a school.

When recording crimes, police can "flag" an offence as being motivated by different factors – race and ethnicity, religion or beliefs, sexual orientation, disability or transgender identity.

Forces were asked to give details of these flags. In some cases, crimes had more than one flag.

By far the most common flag attached to an offence was race and ethnicity, accounting for 71 per cent of all flags recorded in the past two academic years (2015-16 and 2016-17).

'A wake-up call'

Religion or belief flags accounted for 9 per cent of all flags recorded, the same proportion as sexual orientation, while disability accounted for 10 per cent and transgender identity, 1 per cent.

While the number of transgender-related hate offences at or near schools and colleges was small, it was still more than double the number in the previous year.

In total, there were 16 transgender-related hate crimes linked to educational establishments in the 2016-17 academic year. This compares with six offences in 2015-16.

Campaigners warned that the figures were a "wake-up call".

Paul Twocock, Stonewall's director of campaigns, policy and research, said: "While some people may suggest this spike is due to increased confidence in reporting, we fear these figures represent just the tip of the iceberg of a rise in hate crimes against LGBT people.

"From our research into hate crime, we know that four in five anti-LGBT hate crimes go unreported, with younger people particularly reluctant to go to the police.

"We also know that two in five trans people have experienced a hate crime or incident in the last 12 months.

"We want a review of hate crime laws so that crimes based on sexual orientation, gender identity or disability are treated equally to those based on race and faith."

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: "It is disturbing to see an increase in reported hate crimes in schools and colleges. We fear this reflects a wider problem in society beyond the school gates.

"Over the past 18 months, school leaders have told us of a number of incidents in which pupils have been subjected to racial abuse by members of the public, away from school premises, as they go about their daily lives.

"It is relatively rare for hate crimes to actually take place in schools and colleges. Indeed, schools and colleges are havens of good values, promoting tolerance and respect, and often serving diverse communities."

Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton, National Police Chiefs' Council lead for hate crime, said: "Hate crime, particularly among young people, undermines the diversity and tolerance that we should be celebrating.

"All police forces take a robust approach to reporting crime and reassuring victims. Significant efforts have been made to improve our recording systems and to enhance our partnerships with educators and charities that support victims.

"The Crime Survey of England and Wales has indicated that the significant increases that we have seen in recent years have largely been due to these efforts and more victims having the confidence to come forward and report this kind of abuse to police."

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