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Race abuse rife among children;Stephen Lawrence inquiry

RACISM is an everyday feature of school life for hundreds of children, says the children's charity Childline.

Last year more than 1,000 children called Childline about racism. Of almost 20,000 children who called, at least 2 per cent had suffered serious racist taunts and abuse.

Mary MacLeod, Childline's research director and author of the report, said:

"The word bullying masks the level of abuse. If these children were adults they would be complaining of harassment, threatening behaviour, actual or grevious bodily harm."

One 13-year-old girl told how she had petrol poured over her head by three pupils on the way home. Another had been knocked from her bike, breaking her arm and leg.

Many children said they had told a teacher about the bullying, but hadn't mentioned the racial elements because they were too ashamed.

Several described feelings of self-hatred and rejection of their own colour or culture. "I hate my dad. He made me black", said one boy. A minority of calls were on 'reverse' racist bullying.

Others were made by white children troubled by the bullying of their friends and wanting to know how to help. Childline is to send anti-racism posters to every school in Britain encouraging children to speak out against racism. The anti-bullying leaflets are produced in five languages.

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