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Dealing with racist incidents

Updated: May 22

School is a place for exchanging knowledge and to prepare the new generation for their entry into society. Inevitably, children bring to the school community all the problems that societies face and incorporate them into their own 'little societies'.

Racism in schools is an issue of concern to teachers, parents, and society as a whole and one that should not be ignored.

Racist phenomena are often observed in schools. In fact, almost ½ of pupils in Greece, Albania, North Macedonia, and Bulgaria (48.75%) have witnessed or experienced racist phenomena (according to a survey carried out under the Erasmus+ funded Future Integrity Leaders project). According to a survey by the Children's Advocate, 66% of children believe that racism exists in their school.

 Racist phenomena can range from overt attacks and discrimination to unconscious biases. Indeed, unconscious bias is quite difficult to identify.  In any case, it does not only affect the academic performance of students who are subjected to such racist attacks, but also takes a toll on their mental health.

How can parents and educational staff help?

Parents and teachers have the most important role and are the ones who can prevent and manage such incidents.

Creating a safe and trusting environment at school and at home should be a priority, as should fostering empathy and ethics in children. Discussions about racism should be open and incidents of racism should be discussed both in the classroom and at home. It goes without saying that discussions need to be adapted according to the age of the child but avoiding such discussions is not the appropriate response.

When we are faced with a racist phenomenon, either as parents or as teachers, managing it is a particularly serious and delicate process. Each case and incident will have a different way of being handled.

 But a procedure for managing such incidents could be:

Initially the incident is observed. It may be spotted by a classmate or classmates or by a teacher. First priority is to ensure that all children are safe. The incident is reported to the class teacher in charge of the class as well as the school principal.

It is then important to hold meetings with the children involved in the incident. At these meetings the causes will be explored, and the incident will be discussed at length in an attempt to understand the events.

Depending on the incident, it may be necessary to impose appropriate sanctions on the perpetrator and provide psychological support to the victim. Parents should also be informed about the incident as their contribution to the management of such incidents is important.

Finally, a good practice would be, when such racist phenomena are observed, to be considered by the school and to organize events - discussions - workshops against racism in an effort to prevent such phenomena.

Racism in schools is a serious social problem that negatively affects the educational environment and the atmosphere of cooperation between students. The educational community needs to play its role in promoting multiculturalism, teaching understanding and respect for diversity and learning to deal effectively with racist incidents in the school environment.

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