ONE in three senior pupils from ethnic minorities has been a victim of racism. Incidents ranged from name calling, bullying and racist jokes to extortion and physical assault, according to a small-scale survey in Glasgow and Edinburgh carried out by the cities' race relations councils.
Eight out of 10 said they were aware of such incidents happening on the way to school or within school grounds. Race relations bodies believe official figures tend to underestimate the problem and are urging schools to step up efforts to encourage pupils to report harassment.
Edinburgh's figures show that only 45 incidents were reported between 1999 and 2000 out of a secondary school population of 19,000. A negligible 5 per cent of incidents involved pupils over the age of 15.
But the study of 25 senior pupils from 15 secondaries, mainly in the city, reveals a far more worrying picture. Alistair Christie, chief executive of Edinburgh and Lothians Race Relations Council, said: "It is unacceptable that schools put in nil returns on racist incidents and that this goes unchallenged."
Maggie Chetty, director of the West of Scotland Racial Equality Council, said that one of the biggest problems was under-reporting of incidents.
In the Edinburgh study, one student described serious harassment and extortion.
A 16-year-old Pakistani boy said: "I started to lose weight because they took money off me. They picked on me because I was black. They would walk past me and start stuttering and saying all these names."
When the boy refused to hand over his money he was called a black bastard. "I was hit and nearly fell down the stairs. After that they beat me up. There were classes all around and nothing was ever done. I started playing truant. I never told my parents because we had just moved house and school." After he told his family, they moved back into the city centre.
The unofficial figures come as Lothian and Borders Police launched its latest Rooting out Racism campaign. Gavin Buist, a chief inspector, said previous research showed that only one in 10 racial crimes was reported.
Colin Finlayson, head of James Gillespie's High in the capital, which has 250 ethnic minority pupils, said: "Young people are in no doubt that racism is unacceptable. We have very few incidents reported, however - not because there is no racism but because a lot of children either deal with it themselves or ignore it. At a low level at least, like bullying, a lot put up with it because that's life."