Adviser slams coverage of racism case

18th August 2006 at 01:00
Media pundits who attacked the prosecution of a 10-year-old accused of racist bullying in the playground have been criticised by a government adviser.

Robin Richardson said schools should "face down the cruel simplicities of the right-wing media" and step up efforts to tackle racism in schools.

Teachers' leaders were correct to support the Crown Prosecution Service's decision earlier this year to bring charges against the boy, despite criticism from the judge who heard the case, he said.

In his judgment, Judge Jonathan Finestein said: "There are major crimes out there and the police don't bother to prosecute. If you get your car stolen it doesn't matter, but you get two kids falling out... this is nonsense."

Mr Richardson, who helped to draft the Department for Education and Skills'

advice for schools on how to tackle racism, said: "Two kids falling out - that was how the case was presented in the media. It was a mere 'playground spat', they said.

"What actually happened was that three white boys repeatedly harassed and persecuted a boy of mixed heritage over a period of six months or more, calling him Paki, Bin Laden and Nigger.

"His parents complained to the school but the abuse continued. Eventually, when the verbal abuse was accompanied by a physical attack and the boy was injured, they went to the police," he said.

Charges were only brought against one 10-year-old boy after his parents refused to let him apologise. The other two boys involved escaped prosecution after agreeing to accept a formal reprimand.

Mr Richardson, co-director of the Insted consultancy was writing in the latest edition of the education journal Forum.

He said racism was different from other forms of playground abuse because, in contrast to insults such as "spotty", "fatty" and "four-eyes" it has a long history affecting millions of people and is common in wider society.

"A message in all bullying is, 'You don't belong,'" he said. In the case of racist bullying, the message is not only, 'You don't belong in this playground or this friendship group,' but also, 'You don't belong in this country.' It is therefore often even more devastating and traumatic for the pupil who is attacked than other forms of bullying."

DFES advice on racist bullying is available at www.teachernet.gov.ukracistbullying

WHAT THEY SAID AT THE TIME

"Comments which dismiss racial abuse as 'political correctness gone mad' simply feed the pernicious agenda of extremists."

Chris Keates, general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, in the Daily Mail

"Whatever process led to that 10-year-old being hauled before a youth court must be in some way flawed. If his questioning of the decision to prosecute was wise, however, almost everything else that he said on the subject was foolish and profoundly unhelpful to the cause of good race relations."

Joyce McMillan in the Scotsman

"Judge Finestein and the two schoolfriends whose playground spat provoked all this nonsense have a great deal to teach the police, the Crown Prosecution Service and the unions about growing up."

The Daily Telegraph

"In 2006, a judge with common sense is aboutas rare as a sighting of Posh Spice at an all-you-can-eat buffet."

Carole Malone in the Sunday Mirror

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