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The Law on ... Racist incidents

Basic issues

After the death of Stephen Lawrence, the inquiry into his death recommended that a racist incident should be defined as "any incident which is perceived to be racist by the victim or any other person".

Schools should ensure that they make it clear that all forms of racism will not be tolerated and are simply unacceptable. It is good practice for schools to have policies and structures in place to tackle racism by ensuring that pupils are educated about what being racist means, the fact that it is wrong and which member of staff they should report incidents to. Remind pupils of these issues through assemblies, information on notice boards and the school prospectus.

Recording a complaint

- Once a member of staff is approached about a racist incident, they should take the matter seriously and reinforce to the pupil what the school's position is on racism. All efforts should be made to support the victim.

- The member of staff should log the incident and should notify a senior member of staff.

- The incident complained of should then be investigated in detail by a senior member of staffmanager by addressing all the issues and listening to the evidence of all parties. If it transpires that the incident was not of a racist nature, all parties should be informed of this decision.

- If it is a racist incident, the perpetrator should be sanctioned proportionately and told that racism will not be tolerated, and it should be reinforced why it is wrong. It is also good practice to attempt to resolve the situation by allowing both parties to come together and discuss the incident.

- Once the investigation is complete, this should be recorded, usually in a racist incident investigation form.

- Hold staff meetingstraining regarding this issue. Staff should encourage pupils to report all incidents of a racist nature.

Watch out for

Victims of racist incidents can refer the matter to the police if their parents wish. Parents have the right to complain and bring the matter to the attention of the headteacher and the governing body

Information supplied by Anita Chopra, partner at Match Solicitors.

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