Bullied out of an education

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A new Goldsmiths, University of London report has shed light on bullying of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller (GRT) children in schools.

Gypsy, Roma, Traveller flag

Gypsy, Roma, Traveller flag

The report, Recognise, Report, Resolve hatred against Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities, is based on findings from the Report Racism GRT website – established in 2016 by Goldsmiths student Sherrie Smith and Gypsy and Traveller Empowerment Hertfordshire (GATE Herts) founder Josie O’Driscoll.

One referral to the website told how one boy endured ‘five years of misery’ at the hands of bullies, despite moving schools and changing his name multiple times to hide his ethnicity.

Two Roma students also reported being surrounded by 12 fellow students who shouted ‘you’re sleeping with your sister, sleeping with your sister you inbreds’ at them.

Another referral from a Gypsy college student described being circled by 16 other students, who verbally abused and chanted ‘dirty gypo’ at him.

Tension between parents was another common theme in referrals. For example, at a school with 50% GRT pupils, one mother reported ‘ongoing hostility’ from non-gypsy mothers, saying ‘there is often a lot of verbal abuse’.

The report also revealed that 57% of people from GRT communities reporting to the website did not refer incidents to police for fear of inaction.

Other types of reported incidents included workplace bullying and exclusion from public services. 67% of reports referred to examples of online hate.

The report, commissioned by GATE Herts, is based on analysis from Goldsmiths academics Naomi Thompson and David Woodger, who evaluated 115 cases to identify themes in the nature of abuse and reporting.

They make a number of recommendations to try and ease tensions and combat abuse, including that media platforms more effectively moderate hate left as online comments.

They also highlight the need to increase awareness that people from non-GRT communities can report to the website, and suggest that GRT communities be represented on national advisory groups around hate crime.

Sherrie Smith, Goldsmiths BA Applied Social Science student and GATE Herts Project Manager said: “This report reveals the nature and scope of hate and discrimination against people from Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities, and will hopefully make people sit up and take notice. GRT communities have shown that antigypsyism, discrimination and hate speech will no longer be tolerated – enough is enough. The climate is already changing with people coming forward to report incidents to us, I just hope this research encourages more people to do the same.”

Examples of abuse

At work

Three sisters working in housekeeping at a hospital said they faced ongoing harassment from supervisors and colleagues. Senior managers sought out colleagues to discredit the sisters’ complaints and called them ‘disruptive’.


A ‘buy and sell’ group set up by and for Travellers, was targeted by trolls using fake accounts to post abuse like ‘go commit suicide’, ‘you need to wash’ and ‘learn to read’.

Other comments from across social media include ‘they could always get a house and contribute to society rather than just taking from it’ and ‘horse and dog muck, rubbish everywhere and no effort to clean up’.

In public services

A woman reported derogatory references to ‘your kind of people’ from her local GP’s receptionist, and another reported being denied an early repeat prescription before going traveling.

In public

A young man reported entering a pub and being told by the bartender that ‘she did not want any trouble in here’. He then faced abusive chanting from a group of men at the bar. Attacks were reported outside tube stations and in supermarket car parks.

At home

One couple described returning home to find ‘dirty pigs’ daubed on their front door, another woman reported her neighbours regularly calling the RSPCA to check on her dogs for no reason.

Read the full report

Find out more about GATE Herts

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