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Received a note from DD's teacher about a "racist incident" and not sure how to handle it

(32 Posts)
SecretSlattern Tue 13-Oct-09 19:36:16

DD is 5 and Y1. According to this note, she was in the toilets at lunchtime and apparently told a little black girl that she doesn't like black girls in the toilet at the same time as her.

DD is very interested in differences between people at the moment, she regularly asks questions about colour, how people look etc and I do try to be as honest as I can with her. Her latest thing is why do some people have black faces and she has a white face? She tells me she would like to try being black to see what it is like and I have told her it is no different to being white. The point I am trying to make is that I do not genuinely believe that this incident was intentionally racist.

DD told me on Saturday that she is "being pinched and hurt by D" a black boy in her class. There was apparently an issue with this child last week where he pinched her arm, twisted it and drew blood. She is not the only one, I have heard parents in the playground moaning about him and how he has been behaving towards some of the other children (mostly girls if that makes any difference). DD has assured me that the teacher dealt with D according to their behaviour policy, ie he was put on the red triangle with a warning about his behaviour. I am satisfied that this incident has been dealt with and tbh, have a sneaky feeling that DD might have been winding him up hmm.

I think (as this toilet thing took place on Friday) that it is possible that DD was upset by D's actions and therefore 'took it out' on this young girl in the toilet. I really don't think there was any malicious intent at all. I could be wrong and I accept that now she is at school, she is learning all sorts of things, but I would be very surprised if she did mean it.

I tried to question her about it this evening, and she burst into tears and was difficult to make sense of. I've cuddled her and reassured her and told her that I'm not telling her off, but just that it is an important thing that needs to be sorted out to make sure she has the best time at school.

I'm not sure if I've handled this correctly. I want to go into the school and assure them that she isn't a racist and neither are we but then I don't want to seem like I'm making a drama out of something they think is pretty small. OTOH, a note was sent home with the words "racsist incident" on, so maybe they do think it's a big thing.

WWYD? Thanks for reading this far.

50ftQueenie Tue 13-Oct-09 20:40:08


Inghouls2 Tue 13-Oct-09 20:50:38

difficult... I think you need to try talking to your dd again.. was she upset because she knew she had said something wrong or because she thought she might get in trouble do you think?
You need to get to the root of this though... why would she link a black boy, to a black girl I wonder... At that age I would have thought gender would be the obvious differentiation not skin colour. boys lumped together, girls lumped together iyswim.
I'd make an appointment to go and speak to the school and be honest, tell them you are not racist, you are as surprised as they are at this incident and you'll speak to your dd about it.
you're going to have make it clear to your dd that regardless of any racial connotations, what she said was bullying and it's not acceptable.

ADragonIs4LifeNotJustHalloween Tue 13-Oct-09 20:54:36

I think "racist incident" has little meaning when you are talking about a 5 year old, especially under the circumstances you describe. However, I would imagine the other girl was incredibly hurt and upset by what your DD said.

I think you need to explain how what she said would have been very hurtful (eg "how would you like it if someone said to you they don't like <<appropriate description for your child>> girls in the toilet with them?" and then get her to apologise to the other girl.

Whether the intent was there or not, she needs to understand why it was hurtful.

TeenyTinyToria Tue 13-Oct-09 20:54:48

It's possible as you say that if the black boy is bullying her, she is associating the bullying with skin colour, which then resulted in her behaviour towards the little girl. I think she is too young to be racist, and she's just making an incorrect association.

If I was you, I'd explain to her that it isn't right to exclude anyone, and it wasn't nice for her to speak to the little girl like that. You could talk about how she would feel if someone was excluding her or picking on her, and hopefully get her to realise how her behaviour is hurtful.

You can also read lots of stories with characters of many different skin colours and cultures, and talk about how everyone is unique but also the same. You might be able to explain to her about how skin colour depends on the country a person's family originally came from and reaction to the heat, etc etc. I'm sure she's just interested in differences in general and is just curious.

I would also speak to the school and explain to them that you are confident that there's no racist intent behind her behaviour, and let them know how you have dealt/plan to deal with it at home. I don't think it will be a big deal, children will exclude or pick on others for all kinds of reasons, usually baseed on differences, and they just need to learn that it's not acceptable.

ADragonIs4LifeNotJustHalloween Tue 13-Oct-09 20:56:15

I wouldn't go to school and make a big deal about how you're not racist though. I'd just tell the teacher that you've spoken to your DD and explained why it is not acceptable to say those things and how it is very hurtful.

hocuspontas Tue 13-Oct-09 20:58:42

I think schools have a legal requirement to follow up any incident involving racist remarks whether intentional or not.

hocuspontas Tue 13-Oct-09 21:03:03

Meant to add that the school probably assume it was unintentional but need to show some paperwork (i.e. the note home) to show that they have investigated.

Thandeka Tue 13-Oct-09 21:11:49

yup hocuspontas is right.

I am currently battling to get schools to have legal responsibility for homophobic incidents too- but that is another story.

trickerg Tue 13-Oct-09 21:50:10

In our county and I think nationally, any 'racist' incident that could be perceived as such, must now be reported to the LA, whether or not it was intended as a racist incident.

Feenie Tue 13-Oct-09 21:52:21

Yes, ours too.

TheIggorcist Tue 13-Oct-09 21:53:53

Thandeka we have to record homophobic incidents as well as racist ones, according to our local authority (not sure if that's what you mean though by legal resp.)

GypsyMoth Tue 13-Oct-09 21:57:53

Thandeka...thats interesting. i have recently had concerns over this,and was wondering what to do/think.

benjysmum Tue 13-Oct-09 22:17:39

I have had a similar experience. My friend was passing through my town on a camping holiday with her niece and popped in to see me. We took the little girl (5YO)out and had an absolutely lovely day during which she showed no problems at being left alone with me or indeed having me accompany her to the loo by myself. Now my friend (and her niece) are white and I am black.

My friend later informed me that her niece had told her earlier that she hated black people. Her niece subsequently changed her mind at the end of our day together. Speaking to her later my friend established that she was being harassed by a boy at school (same sort of thing, pinching etc) and as he was the only black child in the school, she had made this association.

The idea that either my friend or her niece (or indeed your DD) is racist is quite frankly ridiculous and for the school to react in this manner confuses the issue of actual racist behaviour. It's overkill and "PC gone mad". Your DD has probably made a simple colour association which a little gentle discouragement will resolve.

TheFallenMadonna Tue 13-Oct-09 22:21:51

I agree with Dragon. The more you stress you are not racist, the more hmm it will seem. Just say that you've talked about it and made it clear that it wassn't the right thing to say. Which it wasn't.

TheWorstWitch Tue 13-Oct-09 22:24:30

I'd go and talk to the school about it - not necessarily to justify your DD's "intentions", but to ask how they think you might deal with it collectively and go from there. (As professionals, they may have better advice than random mums on an internet forum).

Although I don't believe a 5 year old can be intentionally racist, I do think it is a big deal, especially for the little girl in the toilet - I'd be devastated and truly upset if I were her Mum sad

MadBadandDangerousToKnow Tue 13-Oct-09 22:27:17

Agree completely with TheWorstWitch.

Thandeka Wed 14-Oct-09 10:12:35

The iggorcist that is AWESOME would love to know the LA. But isn't something schools have to do- but if an LA has directed them to I suppose they would. But legal duty to report on racist incidents is enshrined in race relations act I believe and I strongly think similar duty needs to be put on schools for homophobic incidents to actually make schools do something about it. But sorry am hijacking so will shh now.

starwhoreswonaprize Wed 14-Oct-09 10:20:52

I think your dd needs to be aware that people are people and we all have different coloured skin. I think it is rather worrying that she would dislike a black girl because a black boy pinched her skin.

I would use lots of positive words about black people on the television, people of any colour actually. My ds said that he didn't like people with black skin, I nearly choked on my cereal, I took it very seriously (he was nearly 6) and said that he is not allowed to say things like that and how would he like to meet a child that didn't like him because of his skin colour, or eye colour or curls in his hair.

scarletlilybug Wed 14-Oct-09 10:28:34

I think these things are only a big deal if we make them into a big deal...

I despair of a world when a 5-year-old is sent home with a note about a "racist incident". If she had said "I don't like ginger girls" or "fat girls" or "girls wearing glasses" or "girls who like pink" it would have been seen for exactly what it is - a bit of unkind behaviour, fairly typical of children that age.

Unfortunatly, I don't see the point of going into the school to complain about the incident being treated as "racist". I think they were legally obliged to treat it as such.

BloodRedTulips Wed 14-Oct-09 10:41:11

scarlet... i'm fairly positive if any of those things were said in dd's school there'd be an equal reaction to what the OP is experiancing.

i'm not sure 'racist' is the correct term as the child isn't old enough to comprehend race or ethnicity but 'differentist' or 'colourist' don't exactly sound right either do they.

5 is so little, they still have their odd moods and randomly decide they don't like the cat looking at them/brother talking to them/friend touching them at that age and i'm sure her school understand that but simply felt they had to be seen to be nipping any possible racist language and behaviour in the bud in case the other childs mother caused a fuss.

missmem Wed 14-Oct-09 10:48:31

This thread has rekindled some concerns about my 8 year old son. We live in London and I have two best friends, one black and one Asian. When he was very young he used to want to stroke skin that was a different colour to him which is harmless however in the last few years he has made some shocking comments. When he had an Asian friend over (girl) she said that she wanted to marry DS grin but he turned round and said "No, way I'm not marrying you because your skin is brown"! shock He has also told me that he doesn't like me cuddling my best friend because she is black. angry I have tried to talk to him about this but he says he just can't explain why he feels this way. His other siblings do not feel this way and he has always been surrounded by many ethnicities, especially at the church he goes to. I am worried. sad

gorionine Wed 14-Oct-09 10:58:06

I am sorry op, I have read your first post three times and still do not understand what exactly happened in the toilets!blush can you just tell me again. (sorry I have my tired head on today!)

FWIW I do tend to agree with scarletlilybug due to the fact we are indeed talking about a five YO.

TheIggorcist Wed 14-Oct-09 23:44:11

For Thandeka - I work in the capital of Scotland. It's part of our bullying and anti-discrimination policy (so covers stuff like disabilty, gender, too)

1dilemma Wed 14-Oct-09 23:58:47

Anything perceived (presumably by the adult not just/only the child) as racist has to be reported to the LA here too.
'Serious' ones to social services too I think

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