Children are being expected to tolerate or endure the unendurable

Why are children in this city being forced to endure things we as adults would not tolerate or be expected to tolerate?

Wednesday, 18th September 2019, 08:00 am
Updated Wednesday, 18th September 2019, 12:42 pm
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For decades now, my colleagues and I have been obliged to deal with individual and class cases of discrimination in various forms, as well as those involving bullying, harassment and even the victimisation of children, who have spoken up and out, on matters pertaining to breaches of Equality and Human Rights. At times, we have intervened also when these situations turn to intimidation, threats and violence.

Whilst there are laws, guidance, policies and procedures in place that challenge the above, and which afford to victims of the above, protection from these harms, including safeguards that are supposed to be put in place subsequent to these harms having befallen a victim, in reality these are not always invoked nor applied when it comes to children.

Across the city, there have been cases in which children have been targeted for their race and religion for example, i.e. for being Pakistani and Muslim, or German and Jewish, or because of their gender and assumed sexual orientation, for example a boy doing ballet and considered therefore to be ‘Gay’ and wrongfully aligned to this also being slandered, by other children as being a ‘pervert sexual predator’, because in the discriminators’ warped thinking -being ‘Gay’ means that one must be a ‘child sexual abuser’.

Whilst this discriminatory targeting and abuse is bad enough and often endured by children over many months and years even, failings to listen to and properly intervene and protect these victims magnifies their suffering. We often find, in cases, that the child victims, have over many months endeavoured to shine a light on their experiences, only to be the recipients of some staff in some schools, putting their suffering down to ‘’half a dozen of one and six of another’’ and even where it has turned to violence and even assault, battery and actual bodily harm, they are not being seen as a ‘victim’ by school staff but labelled as having been ‘fighting’. This serves to downplay the enormity of the attack upon the victim and infers equal culpability on the perpetrators’ and the victim’s part.

Arising from this to, there are times, when a child victim, is issued with punishment/sanction for having sought to defend themselves. It is the case also, that attacks and discrimination are not a matter of one child against the victim, but it can involve, lots of children acting in joint enterprise against the victim, yet not all are investigated nor subjected to sanctions for the harms done.

Invariably, we have also found, that in follow through, resulting from parental/carer complaint, a school, might extend assurances and intent to put in place ‘a plan’, to safeguard the victim, by way of keeping the children separate. However, in reality, this does not always come to successful fruition, with a perpetrator(s) of an attack, being seated in lessons in close proximity to the victim.

This invariably causes immense fear and ongoing trauma for the child victim.

When parents/carers etc. complain about this, in the best interests of their child, the reaction to them is not always a very positive one we have found and at times, the wheels of collateral damage limitation in a school comes to the fore and families, under duress, are driven from their school, in order to safeguard their child, by having to go through the process of trying to get a school transfer or managed move for their suffering child, whilst those who have discriminated against their child and have even battered their child etc. remain in situ, in the school.

Police too, across the country, we found do not always investigate as they should such crimes, even being accepting of the fact that evidence of battery and ABH etc, is deleted from phones and from social media- an action indicative of purposefully getting rid of incriminating evidence and therefore contrary to the law. Laws which are invoked to investigate and take action against adults for serious comparable misdemeanours, and used to protect adult victims, such as the Protection from Harassment Act 1997, the Public Order Act 2003, The Communications Act 2003, the Malicious Communications Act 1988, the Equality Act 2010 etc. are not always being deployed in cases in which a child/children perpetrate harm towards another child. Often, in order not to criminalise children, a warning is issued, and investigation cases closed by the Police and schools. Other children who acted in common purpose to discriminate and to egg on an assault, or battery or the ABH of

another child, may also experience no real repercussions whatsoever, despite their part in the joint enterprise.

If an adult experienced even half of what some of our Sheffield children have been experiencing as victims of racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination, along with assault, battery and ABH, in say their workplaces, and were then forced to endure having to be in the working vicinity of those who may have harmed them in these ways, there would rightly be an almighty outcry, so why are we letting this happen to our Sheffield children? Why should child victims of such crimes be expected to be accepting and resilient to being discriminated against and abused just because they are children?

Why should the child victims be the ones forced to leave their places of learning, in order to

safeguard themselves?

Maybe if a tougher line was taken against those perpetrating such abuses, regardless of their age, such abuses might reduce and even stop, because as it stands, the onus from what we see and have experienced is stacked towards safeguarding the perpetrators from being the recipients of a criminal record rather than putting to the fore the safeguarding and redress for the child victims.