The Catalan Ombudsman calls for a review of existing educational instruments to prevent, detect and address any form of racism in schools


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Most cases are not reported, which makes it difficult to detect the phenomenon

The communication circuit of situations of racial discrimination must be simple, clear and easy to understand

It is necessary to provide educational staff with training on racial equality

Following a complaint received about the alleged racist harassment suffered by an eleven-year-old child in a school, the Catalan Ombudsman opened an ex officio action to study the mechanisms of prevention and action in the education field against attitudes and behaviours of hatred, stigma, and racism among and toward children, their families, or any member of the educational community.

The Catalan Ombudsman states that unfortunately, except on rare occasions, minors affected by racial discrimination, probably out of fear, do not report the situation, nor do they seek the support of adults, and neither do their families. And this fact contributes to the difficulty of detecting harassment or discrimination, which remain invisible or even sometimes "normalized". Therefore, the absence of complaints or denunciations is not always an indication of the non-existence of these attitudes but rather of the lack of detection of racist situations. This is why the Catalan Ombudsman requests that the study of this specific case be an opportunity for the education Administration to reflect on the practices that are necessary and consider the need to ensure additional training for members of the education Administration and the school on the subject of racial discrimination and the importance of an active and committed intervention in the best interest of the child.

The Catalan Ombudsman recalls that the Department of Education has sufficient tools and services - protocol for prevention, detection and intervention regarding harassment and cyberbullying among peers, protocol against hate conducts and discrimination, school and intercultural mediation programs, etc.- but that these tools must be effectively known by teachers and used for the benefit of children. The Catalan Ombudsman also reminds that the education Administration must network and that, when appropriate, it can request collaboration to other services, resources or specialized entities in order to address specific issues.

The Catalan Ombudsman calls for the convenience of establishing a simple, clear and understandable circuit for children and their families to act against harassment and racial discrimination and to communicate them, and to ensure that any communication of this nature by the child is dealt with confidentially and with the maximum sensitivity and expertise, in order to prevent secondary victimization to the child for having reported it.

It also suggests that, through a participatory process, and with the help of experts if deemed necessary, organizational documents of schools and any other regulatory documents are reviewed, so that they convey a clear message of zero tolerance towards any form of racial discrimination in schools. In this sense, the Catalan Ombudsman also states the need to guarantee the transparency and accessibility of this documentation and protocols, and to guarantee its publication and easy communication to all families (especially vulnerable families with language barriers).

As for students, the Catalan Ombudsman advocates for promoting intercultural education with the aim of preparing citizens so that they can develop in a plural, diverse and egalitarian society. According to the institution, it is possible to prevent hate conduct and discrimination if families and schools work together on the cognitive, emotional and social skills of children and young adults, as well as on education based on children’s rights.

As for teaching professionals, the Catalan Ombudsman emphasizes that the lack of specific training in racial discrimination and equality can be an important barrier to detect and address racism and discrimination, which leaves racialized students vulnerable and without the necessary protection. Therefore, it is essential to provide education and leisure professionals with training in racial equality and discrimination.

Regarding legislation, the Catalan Ombudsman recalls that the Council of Europe points out that the legislator's action against racism and racial discrimination plays an important educational role in society by convincingly conveying the message that no attempt to legitimize racism and racial discrimination will be tolerated in a society governed by the rule of law. And, in this sense, the Catalan Ombudsman asks the Department of Education to review current regulations and educational instruments in order to introduce more specific instruments and circuits or assess whether it is appropriate to adopt a manifesto or a commitment of all schools in Catalonia to prevent, detect and address any form of racism, microracism, xenophobia or discrimination, with a clear message of zero tolerance for racist or xenophobic behaviour in school.

Finally, when there are components of racism in harassment, the Catalan Ombudsman considers that investigations should be carried out by qualified professionals who have received specific training to ensure a sensitive approach based on the rights of the child.