Demand a public, independent enquiry in rising hate crime & bullying in UK Schools #Jamal
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The horrific videos of Syrian refugee students, Jamal and his sister being attacked on Almondbury school property by fellow students have quite rightly caused public outrage. Jamal's attacker was found to have links to right wing terror groups profiteering from inciting racial hatred. Exposing the bullies mobilised the British community to rally support for Jamal and his family. Media coverage faciliated a swift turnaround of events with the bullies being charged five weeks after the initial incident took place and the survivors in this incident being removed from daily harassment and torture.
The story could have ended very differently had it not received global coverage. Sadly, the number of children and teenagers self harming or committing suicide is at an all time high. One study found that 22% of young people who had committed suicide were bullied. Racial hate crime in schools is under reported. Better training is needed for staff to recognise, address and escalate the issues to safeguard all children equally. Despite Jamal having had his arm broken and his sister attempting suicide by slashing her wrists, both siblings endured another five weeks of humiliation at the hands of their bullies.
Children who are subject to hate crime, daily humiliation and degradation by their peers should be protected by robust safeguarding policies subject to constant review by the school governing body, local authority and implemented by staff. Jamal and his sister were failed by a system that was slow to address the reality of their suffering. After having endured war and displacement fleeing their home country, this school should have been a place of protection and safety.
A public, independent enquiry is required to identify systematic failures that allowed Jamal and his sister to endure constant threats, physical harm and humiliation over such a long period of time. This should include leadership staff at Almondbury School, Ofsted inspectors, local council and the police response.
A review of current safeguarding measures must include how to better identify signs of right wing extremism and the correct referral pathways for such behaviour.
Better collaboration and information sharing between schools, Ofsted, local councils and police is required to facilitate escalation for serious incidents. This should include better monitoring of students deemed to be at risk of accessing extremist literature or visiting extremist websites. The mother of the bully in this case had also been to court for racial abuse. Agencies need to work together to identify minors at risk of being radicalized by family members.
Improve support systems within school and access for confidential reporting by young victims of hate crime and bullying to a designated and trained staff member.
More frequent and thorough Ofsted inspections for schools with a track record of bullying and failure to protect students adequately.
I'm Dr Shameela Islam-Zulfiqar. I first shared Jamal's story in the public sphere because I was appalled at Jamal's trauma, the inadequate response and feet dragging that had occurred in this case. I work with a number of Syrian refugee families in Huddersfield and have advocated for Syrian refugee rights through my work in the humanitarian sector since the war began.
While I am overwhelmed and delighted with the outpouring of love and hope the British people have shown for Jamal and his family, I know we can't stop here. There are many other children who are being bullied across the UK daily. This has to be tackled better. Every child that commits suicide as a result of bullying is one too many.
I believe that every child has the right to feel safe and have the opportunity to fulfil their dreams and purpose without fear. Hate crime must be rooted out everywhere- but especially within our youth. If we don't take evasive measures now- we face an epidemic of divisive, intolerant and destructive individuals that will seek to reverse the diverse beauty of our community and social cohesion. We can't let that happen. Education is key. Especially for bullies.
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