Schools, further education colleges, universities and bodies responsible for educational establishments such as Education and Library Boards, Boards of Governors, CCMS, are all included.
The Race Relations Order
lists the types of educational establishments covered.
No, there are different types of race discrimination, and it doesn’t have to be intentional to be unlawful. The main forms are -
Direct discrimination is where you are treated worse than others because of your race.
Example: An 11-year-old Afro-Caribbean boy is turned away on his first day at secondary school for wearing his hair in cornrows. The school’s strict uniform code requires a traditional school boys’ haircut or a 'short back and sides’.
Indirect discrimination is where an organisation unjustifiably operates a rule or policy that looks the same for everyone but in effect disadvantages people from your particular race.
Example: A rule that employees or pupils must not wear headgear could exclude Sikh men and boys who wear a turban, or Jewish men or boys who wear a yarmulke, in accordance with practice within their racial group.
Racial harassment is where a person behaves in a way, on racial grounds, which violates your dignity or creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment.
Specific examples of racial harassment include:
• assault, ranging from pushing through to physical attacks, grievous bodily harm
• verbal racist abuse ranging from jokes to offensive remarks and comments
• racist graffiti in any form, offensive mail, racist literature
You can be the target of racial harassment in a range of settings that includes:
• Teacher/pupil harassment
• Pupil/teacher harassment
• Pupil/pupil harassment
• Teacher/teacher harassment
For example: Two pupils from an Irish Traveller background overhear a teacher referring to Traveller people as gypsies. Other comments are that the site where they live should be shut down and that they are ‘trouble’. Although not directed at them, the remarks still make these two pupils feel humiliated and degraded.
Victimisation is where you have made a complaint of race discrimination or helped someone else make a complaint about a service provider under the race law.
For example: A teacher constantly picks on a pupil because she supported another pupil’s racial harassment claim against a teacher colleague.
Over the past three years we have advised a small number of people (17) with potential complaints on race discrimination in education.
We helped individuals with issues such as:
Non recognition of qualifications gained overseas
Appearance and uniform requirements
Being retained in a lower class
You are protected from discrimination in education in the following areas:
The admissions policies
Access to classes, courses or other benefits, facilities or services provided by the school or college
Exclusions or other unfavourable treatment
Facilities provided by educational establishments in the public sector
However, there are limited circumstances where race discrimination is allowed where persons from a particular racial group can access facilities and services to meet their additional needs with regard to education, (for example, classroom assistant provision, or parental interpreting service.
Schools are allowed to set rules about what pupils should and should not wear at school. However they need to review their policy constantly to ensure that it is not discriminatory on particular racial and religious groups.
They should ensure that the uniform and dress rules do not prevent pupils from ethnic or religious groups from participating in a particular part of school life. For example, if schools require pupils to wear certain clothing for physical education, then this can mean children of certain religions will not be able to participate in these activities.
What can I do myself?
1. Contact our Discrimination Advice Officers who will provide you with free and confidential information and guidance. Should you decide to take your case to court, you can ask for us to provide legal representation. Remember the time limits referred to in the earlier section particularly the need to notify the Department of Education if your complaint concerns certain public sector education.
2. Raise your complaint directly with the education body and seek a resolution. If your complaint relates to harassment you will find that most schools, colleges and universities will have an anti-bullying/harassment policy which sets out how they will investigate and deal with your complaint and support victims.
3. Go directly to court with your own legal representative to lodge a complaint of discrimination.
How can the Equality Commission help me?
1. We provide advice and assistance.
2. We provide legal representation in a limited number of cases.
Only a court decides whether the treatment you have complained of is unlawful discrimination. It is separate to and independent from the Equality Commission.
If you require assistance or would like to make a discrimination complaint, complete our online form or telephone 028 90 500 600 (10am-4pm, Mon-Fri).