Monday, September 13, 2010

Perhaps it was because of the BBC Trust requirement that no group be ignored or underserved that Newsround, last week, decided to cover racist bullying from the point of view of a white boy bullied by Asian pupils.

The story resulted from the recommendations in a report (pdf) for Swindon Borough Council, which had looked into the circumstances surrounding a boy who suffered serious injuries when he was hit on the head with a hammer.

Alex Gray, a counsellor from ChildLine was in the studio to answer questions. Ricky asked him whether racist bullying was worse than other types of bullying. Alex responded that racist bullying "really attacks something really really personal to you," and that, Alex said, makes it particularly bad.

Traditionally racist bullying has been treated as more serious than all other types of bullying, but not for the reason given by Alex. Racist bullying is taken so seriously because the bullying, as well as directly affecting the victim, is also seen as an attack on a whole community group, and therefore a threat to community relations and a cohesive society.

Victims of racist bullying can, perhaps more readily than with other types of bullying, obtain help from their friends and family. Kids who, on the other hand, get bullied about issues personal to themselves often feel less able to ask for that help. Hopefully, when Ricky carries out his investigations for Newsround, he'll be a bit more skeptical and won't simply accept what he's told at face value.

Newsround's coverage of the racist bullying story may have given a misleading impression that Swindon's recommendations were applicable throughout the country. This is how it went out on Thursday's Newsround at 5pm -

Sonali: First we're talking about bullying. You can get picked on for all sorts of reasons. For some kids it's because of the colour of their skin.

Ricky: Well today a new report says schools should be doing more to stamp out racist bullying.

Sonali: (video) Three years ago Henry was attacked at his school because he was white. This CCTV film shows him just before he was set upon by a gang. They beat him up and left him with serious head injuries. There'd been lots of trouble between white and Asian pupils at the school, and Henry and his friends had been badly bullied. Henry's school say they couldn't have done anything to stop him being attacked, but Henry disagrees and thinks they could have. There's been a big investigation into what happened and the Report's out. It says schools must find out exactly why someone's been bullied and whether it's because of the colour of their skin. They say schools should keep a record of the race of all bullies and their victims, and the police should be told about any racist pupils.

Sonali: Well watching that on the sofa with us is Alex Gray, a counsellor from ChildLine. Hey there Alex. Now lots of schools are good at stamping out bullying, but is there any evidence that racist bullying is happening more often?

Alex: Yeah, we're hearing a lot from young people at ChildLine who are being bullied because of the colour of their skin, because of their background, their culture, that kind of thing. Bullying has always been our number one type of call that we get. But more and more they're calling us about racist bullying.

Ricky: And is being bullied just for maybe the colour of your skin worse than being teased for maybe being fat, or for being short?

Alex: Well the thing about racist bullying is it really attacks something really really personal to you. So the effect that that has on your self-esteem, how you feel inside is massive. So it can be really bad. All types of bullying are obviously really terrible for the person suffering it, but this is particularly bad.

Sonali: Is there a risk though, that someone's accused of being racist when they're saying a word that they might not actually understand is so bad, or so wrong?

Alex: Yeah, lots of young people will bully other young people without actually realising that's what they're doing. But the thing to remember is about the effect that you're having on other people. So are you upsetting them, are you really hurting them. And just being aware of what your actions are. It's not always a joke at the end of the day.

Sonali: Yeah, just try and think about what you're saying. Thanks Alex.

Ricky: Thanks Alex. Thanks for joining us. Right, don't forget, if you're worried about bullying we've got plenty of help and advice over on the Newsround website.

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