Bullying shame of the nation

26th January 2007 at 00:00
As England grows ever more diverse, teachers and pupils from ethnic, religious and other cultural minorities are suffering new and vicious brands of bullying.

Police were called in Cheshire after a Polish Catholic secondary teacher, 54, endured sustained discrimination because of her faith and nationality, according to her union, NASUWT.

When Pope John Paul II was dying, pupils stuck photographs of him to her car and left notes containing violent threats. Some pupils were suspended for five days. Now teachers are being called to use their professional expertise to speak out against prejudice-related bullying in schools.

Last week the furore over the alleged racist bullying of Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty, on Channel 4's Celebrity Big Brother, led to 40,000 complaints and the eviction of reality star Jade Goody. Liz Carnell, director of Bullying Online, said the organisation had received hundreds of complaints about Celebrity Big Brother, most from members of the Asian community and children.

"When young people watch this programme, they see Jade Goody and others saying these things with no repercussions," she said. "Young people will take the message that racist bullying has no consequences."

Shiraz Chakera, of the General Teaching Council for England, told teachers at an Achieve network event, which promotes racial equality in schools:

"Celebrity Big Brother has allowed us to discuss and explore the low-level racism that floats around in our society.

"But where is the professional voice in these debates? And I don't mean the psychologist picking apart contestants' motivations, but the public professionals who have a crucial role to build society. Where are the teachers?"

Speakers at a NASUWT seminar in Manchester today will argue that prejudice-related bullying goes beyond race and religion, with teachers and children being bullied because of gender or sexuality, body image or disability.

Bullying, Magazine, page 14

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