Brexit ‘fuelling rise in racist language’ in Scottish schools

Racisy language in Scottish schools has increased. Teachers have warned. Picture: Steven Scott Taylor/TSPL

Racisy language in Scottish schools has increased. Teachers have warned. Picture: Steven Scott Taylor/TSPL

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Racist and discriminatory language is becoming more acceptable inside Scottish schools in the wake of the Brexit vote, teachers have warned.

Although there has been no spike in recorded hate crime in Scotland following the vote to leave the EU, there are fears that the result has legitimised hate speech among young people, MSPs at Holyrood were told.

The worrying trend means that the issue of race should be put “explicitly back on the agenda” at Scotland’s schools so the views can be challenged in the classroom, according to written evidence provided to the Scottish Parliament’s Equalities and Human Rights Committee.

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Academics at the Moray House School of Education, which is part of the University of Edinburgh, said they had spoken to teachers in Scottish schools who had witnessed a rise in incidents since the Brexit vote.

“Our recent discussions with teaching staff point to a growing mood among pupils and also within some parent groupings about a new acceptability of discriminatory language and views related to colour, ethnicity, nationality, ethnic origins and religion,” they told MSPs.

When confronted about their child’s racist language, parents are now more likely to make excuses for their behaviour – something that would not have happened in the past, the academics said.

“Parents of pupils caught for racial bullying are now very likely to say, for example, ‘It is unfortunate she was caught…but it happens all the time… just unfortunate my daughter was caught saying this’,” the written submission said.

Political language It added that teachers were currently “reluctant and anxious” about addressing racism in the classroom and called for updated advice to be provided for schools on the issue, as well as better recording of incidents of racist bullying and harassment.

In a separate submission to the committee, teaching union the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) said it was also concerned that inflammatory language used by politicians and the media may be fuelling racist bullying in schools. “The current political discourse around immigration is creating a climate which will exacerbate bullying and harassment of refugee and asylum seeking children, and children from visible/audible ethnic minorities, who are or are perceived to be refugees or migrants,” it said.

“We fear that current narratives about ‘migrants’ in, eg, the tabloid media put certain children at greater risk of bullying and harassment.”

The EIS, Scotland’s largest teaching union, also said its own research had shown some forms of prejudice-based bullying were increasing in schools – with misogyny, racism, Islamophobia and homophobia on the rise.

“Casual though often vindictive use of overtly sexualised and derogatory language such as ‘slut’ and ‘whore’ were widely used against girls or women staff,” its submission said.

Asked about the issue during First Minister’s Questions, Nicola Sturgeon said she was “very concerned” by the reports, adding that there should be “zero tolerance” of bullying in Scotland’s schools.

“That is just a reminder to us of the responsibility we all carry to promote the principles of tolerance, respect and diversity,” she told MSPs.

This article originally appeared on our sister site iNews