Dealing with discrimination and harassment

Education providers must comply with anti-discrimination and human rights legislation and have a duty to promote the wellbeing of pupils or students. That means that they should actively seek to eliminate all forms of discrimination and harassment - whether towards students or staff.

In general, this should first be dealt with through your own disciplinary policy, but in all circumstances the safety, well-being and support needs of the victim should be your first priority.

Find out about the legal definition of discrimination.

Dealing with racial discrimination and harassment of students or staff

Education providers have a legal responsibility to make a written record of any racist incident which takes place on their premises. Schools should also report all racist incidents to their local authority (education authority in Scotland).

Certain racist incidents may also be criminal offences in England and Wales under the Crime & Disorder Act 1998. These include:

  • Racially aggravated assaults, including common assault, actual bodily harm, grievous bodily harm and wounding.
  • Racially aggravated criminal damage, including racist graffiti, damage to property and arson (lighting fires).
  • Racially aggravated public order/harassment, including engaging in behaviour which causes (or is likely to cause) harassment, distress or fear of violence.

The police (not education providers) are responsible for investigating and dealing with any racist incidents where criminal offences may have been committed. All racist incidents of this kind should be reported to the police as soon as possible.

Education providers should also report the incident to the police if asked to do so by the victim or their parent.

Dealing with sexual harassment of students or staff

In addition to the general principles for dealing with discrimination or harassment, specific rules exist for dealing with sexual harassment and discrimination, particularly in the following instances:

  • If the victim is under 16, as this can be child abuse. In these circumstances, schools are required to share information they have about sexual harassment with the police and social services. More information about this can be found at Every Child Matters and Teachernet.
  • If the perpetrator is a teacher, lecturer or other professional in a position of authority. This is normally either a criminal matter (in which case it should be referred to the police) or a disciplinary offence under the provider's own code - so providers should follow their standard procedures.


Last Updated: 02 Jul 2009