Brexit hate crime in schools: shocking truth or over-hyped?

Media headlines report that racist hate crimes have almost doubled in schools and wider society since Brexit and the election of Donald Trump. A recent report by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) (now part of the new National Education Union) found that more than a fifth of teachers were aware of incidents of hate crime or speech happening in their schools in the past academic year. The TES recently reported that in May last year – in the middle of the Brexit referendum campaign – the number of police reports of hate crimes and hate incidents in schools rose by 89 per cent, compared with the same month in 2015 and that the number of hate crimes and hate incidents in schools increased by 54 per cent from May to July last year – covering the run-up to the referendum and the immediate aftermath – compared with the same three-month period in 2015. While these figures have been disputed, there is certainly a sense that race-related hate crime incidents are on the rise and are somehow linked to Brexit.

What constitutes a hate crime and who gets to define such a concept? One racist incident is one too many, but what are we to make of the current claims around widespread hate in classrooms – a shocking truth or a moral panic? Does the truth lie somewhere in between these two polarised positions?

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