According to a new report, the United Kingdom needs to do more to tackle racism and religious discrimination in schools.
The warning comes from a committee of young people, the Youth Select Committee, who have warned that the behavior has become “normalised” and is usually dismissed as “banter.”
The report was titled “Young People and the Issues of Racism and Religious Discrimination,” and one included submission said:
“Usually, in school and among friends, they joke about [racism and religious discrimination] a lot, and it’s like, ‘Actually, you shouldn’t be joking about this, that’s not okay.’ There’s not really a lot you can do, because if you take it to your teachers, they’re like, ‘Oh, I’m sure they’re just joking.'”
Another student said that some schools “don’t want racial discrimination to be seen” and care more about protecting their image than reporting problems.
Because teachers tend to not take action, young people are reluctant to report incidents that make them uncomfortable. This is corroborated by a report from the Equality and Human Rights Commission in August.
The committee asked the government to publish clear definitions of racism and religious discrimination on its website within the next six months to combat a “lack of a strategic vision” for dealing with these issues.
They also called for requiring personal, social, and health education (PSHE) in schools, as well as providing teachers with better training on how to deal with discrimination.
Thirdly, they want a coordinated advisory group to be set up with a separate minister within the government’s equalities office to head the efforts.
Since the referendum resulting in Britain’s decision to leave the European Union, teachers are dealing with an increasing number of racist incidents, reports the Association for Citizenship Teaching.
A report from the Poole Youth Forum this year found that 60% of young people have experienced some form of prejudice, reports Aisha Gani of BuzzFeed News.
The Girlguiding Girls’ Attitude 2014 Survey found that 42% of girls aged 11 to 21 know girls their age who have experienced racist bullying.
18-year-old Bronagh Hughes, the chair of the committee, said:
“The UK’s decision to leave the EU brought this issue to the forefront of political discussion following the post-Brexit surge in hate crime that surfaced.
“Moving forward, we must ensure that this is high on the agenda for decision-makers so that we can make positive steps to combat both racism and religious discrimination.”
The Youth Select Committee, which is in its fifth year, is made up of 11 young people aged 14 to 18. It includes members of the UK youth parliament, youth councilors, a young mayor, reserved seats, and representatives from each of the devolved nations.
It launched its inquiry into racism and religious discrimination this year when the issue was voted to be a priority by the UK youth parliament in the House of Commons last winter.
Last year’s focus was mental health, according to Parliament’s website.