School hate crime figures revealed

NEW statistics have revealed the levels of hate crimes in Suffolk’s schools for the first time.

In the last academic year, Suffolk County Council asked all schools to report on homophobic and disablist incidents – something which has never been reflected in data before.

The figures, which reflect the level of incidents that happened in 2009/2010, come after the EADT exclusively revealed the growing issues of racism in the county’s schools.

Jane Basham, chief executive of Ipswich and Suffolk Council for Racial Equality (ISCRE), said that schools and the county council should be looking to community groups and charities to help reduce the level of incidents.

The new data reveals that between September 2009 and 2010, there were 104 homophobic incidents, 34 of which were reported at Sudbury Upper School.

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The majority of homophobic incidents across Suffolk have been defined as being “verbal” offences. More than 6% of these involved a member of staff as the perpetrator.

In addition, 40 disablist incidents were reported, with the majority reported also defined as verbal offences.

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The highest level of disablist incidents were at Copleston High School, in Ipswich, and Sudbury Upper.

Ms Basham said that the high level of schools that hadn’t reported any incidents could reflect that some of them were not taking the issue seriously enough.

She said: “We welcome the important move to record incidents of homophobic and disablist harassment in schools, and the date shows us some schools have made strides, but many have not.

“As with racism, it seriously damages children and their families. But it is not just about reporting but it is also about changing social culture and attitudes.

“It needs to be addressed at the highest level and schools and the local authority need to recognise its impact. This means being determined and critically seeking support from the relevant communities and experts to work in partnership.”

Meanwhile, Linda Hoggarth, chairman of disability charity Optua, welcomed the fact that the council was taking an interest in disablist incidents.

However, she later said that many incidents continued to be both unrecognised and under-reported.

Graham Newman, the county councillor responsible for children and young people’s services, said that any form of discrimination was unacceptable.

A spokesman for the county council later said: “Reporting incidents of racism in schools is something that the government sees as being compulsory, however Suffolk County Council reports these incidents not because we have to but because we take these matters very seriously.”

THE headteacher of Sudbury Upper School has praised his students for being aware of incidents which require reporting.

David Forrest said that his school was aware and conscious of the necessity of reporting racist, homophobic and disablist incidents.

“I think that our figures reflect our determination to tackle these issues and to take them seriously,” he said.

“We stick to the letter of the law in terms of these issues and we continue to raise awareness of these issues.

“A large proportion of the incidents reported across all categories are actually reported by students about incidents which have not been witnessed by a member of staff. I think this really represents how strongly our students feel about this matter also.

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