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Prejudice Based Bullying Guidance
In its 2012 report ‘No Place for Bullying’ Ofsted identified that, while teaching and support staff have receive high quality generic anti-bullying training, staff were neither well trained nor confident to respond to the different forms of bullying, including prejudice based bullying.
What is Prejudice Based Bullying?
Prejudice based bullying is repeated hurtful behaviour that exploits or abuses someone based on their actual or supposed membership of a vulnerable group or their support for such a group. The following protected characteristics identified in the Equality Act 2010 are particularly relevant in this context: age, disability, gender/sex, gender identity, race/ethnicity, religion and sexuality. These dimensions have legal protection because they expose individuals to particular vulnerabilities within our society and within our schools.
Prejudice focuses on the difference between ‘us’ and ‘the other’. Any context where one person uses hurtful behaviour or language that communicates their superiority over someone else is likely to involve prejudice. Young children know the hurtfulness of words like ‘stupid’ and ‘thick’. Their power is based on a prejudice within our society that it is better to intelligent than not to be. The belief that clever people are better in some way than people who are not clever gives particular power to the words. A child who uses this language to be hurtful but does not understand that it is a prejudice is not excused; but rather needs to be taught that it is hurtful, it is prejudice and it is unacceptable.
What is a Prejudice Based Incident?
Schools are increasingly and correctly concerned to prevent any escalation of hurtful or unkind behaviour to the point where it becomes bullying. Individual incidents that reflect attitudes that suggest that one group is superior to another are prejudice based incidents.
Schools are experienced in using the following definition for recording and responding to racist incidents: “any incident which is perceived to be racist by the victim or any other person”. The Police have for some years used this approach more broadly to apply across all areas of Hate Crime. Under the requirements of the Equality Act 2010 it is important that schools provide consistency in their response to the protected characteristics.
It is particularly helpful to broaden the definition already well established so that a prejudiced related incident is "any incident which is perceived to be prejudice by the victim or any other person". This definition is not a conclusion of what will come from any investigation, but it will ensure that such dimensions are properly recorded, investigated and responded to. Staff will need training to understand how to apply such a definition in practice and what it requires of them as professionals in recognising the different forms of prejudice.
Understanding the difference- The initial police response to hate crime
It is really important that schools recognise that incidents that they are recording as ‘Prejudice related incidents’ are called ‘Hate Crime’ by the Police. The definition for Hate Crime reporting is:
Any criminal offence or incident which is perceived by the victim, or any other person, to be motivated by hostility or prejudice towards someone based on a personal characteristic.
This common definition was agreed in 2007 by the Association of Chief Police Officers (now the National Police Chiefs’ Council), Crown Prosecution Service, Prison Service (now the National Offender Management Service) and other organisations that make up the criminal justice system.
Developing a Prevention Strategy
Important steps in a prevention strategy will be:
It is helpful to note that some language is inherently and always hurtful. Responding to such language is straightforward. Other words are perfectly acceptable if used positively and correctly, e.g. black, lesbian, gay, transsexual, woman and girl. Misuse of these words to be negative is always unacceptable and young people need to learn that this is prejudice. Words that individuals choose to describe their identity should be respected and never used to be negative or hurtful.
Special Educational Needs and Disabilities
Individuals with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities are in the group that is most vulnerable to prejudice based hurtful behaviour and bullying across their whole lifetime. Unlike other groups, their vulnerability does not reduce with age.
Stonewall data (The School Report 2012) demonstrates the vulnerability of lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) young people.
Such experiences lead young people who are LGB to change their future educational plans and to have increased their risk of suicide, self-harm and depression.
Studies show that pupils are less likely to report both homophobic and sexualised bullying. This is partly about embarrassment and with homophobia partly about the fear of either being assumed to be or being ‘outed’ as LGB. Responses to incidents should emphasise that all homophobia is unacceptable and that there is nothing wrong with being lesbian, gay or bisexual. It is also vital to challenge the assumption that everyone is heterosexual unless otherwise stated and to establish a broader range of normal diversity.
A primary curriculum to prevent homophobia and promote LGB equality will include representation of different kinds of families during PSHE and Circle time sessions and in texts and resources across the curriculum (including families with same sex parents, other LGB family members and children who do not fit gender stereotypes).
Gender Identity and Reassignment (Transphobia)
Individuals who experience gender dysphoria – discomfort with their gender – find it very difficult to explore and express who they want to be. Hurtful use of language like ‘trannie’ is increasingly heard among young people.
The stereotyping of expectations of boys and girls and men and women feeds into the prejudice against transgender people. It is not new, it is pervasive and it is strongly reinforced by the toy industry, the music industry, celebrity culture and the media.
The ridiculing of boys who show any interest in what are seen as stereotypical girl activities, and vice versa, feeds this prejudice. It is important that schools intervene to broaden young people’s understanding of gender identity, presenting it not as a binary but as a continuum.
See also: Equalities and Diversity: LGBT inclusion
Gender /Sex (Sexism)
Gender equality has been the focus of schools’ planning for many years and yet stereotypical assumptions about the interests and talents of boys and girls remain hard to move and double standards about expectations of boys’ and girls’ behaviour continue to be pervasive.
There is no evidence to show that hurtful sexualised language about girls, e.g. slag, slut and ‘ho’, is decreasing. It is now sometimes presented as a norm in films, television programmes and in some forms of pop music. This gender prejudice is also very commonly perpetrated by girls themselves as well as by boys. The ridiculing of boys through gender and sexuality based name-calling is also commonplace (see Gender Identity and Sexuality above).
It is essential that schools address and prevent these forms of abuse as a key part of their PSHE, SRE and anti-bullying curriculum. Sexist attitudes feeds into the perpetration of sexualised bullying and exploitative teenage relationships and should therefore be strongly and consistently challenged.
See also: Equalities and Diversity: LGBT inclusion
Race and Religion
There are many expressions of racial and religious prejudice ranging from a negative focus on physical differences through to disparagement of heritage and ethnicity and ridicule and hatred based on different culture and belief systems. Stereotyping of ethnic and religious groups supports racism and should always be challenged.
The following are examples of particular forms of racial and religious prejudice and the list is not exhaustive:
The curriculum can challenge racism and religious prejudice by presenting the diversity of all ethnic and religious groups, emphasising cultural similarities and teaching respect for difference. An understanding both human rights and citizen’s responsibilities underpins this agenda.