CPS Schools Hate Crime Guidance: what parents need to know

The High Court

By Sarah Phillimore

On Friday, January 24th I was alerted to the recently launched Crown Prosecution Service Hate Crime Schools Project on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans+ Hate Crime. In their words:

The pack aims to protect potential victims by deterring would-be abusers and encouraging and supporting victims of identity-based bullying to report incidents.

It has been developed by the CPS in partnership with a number of organisations, including Stonewall, the National Police Chiefs’ Council, Gendered Intelligence and NASUWT.

The resource pack for teachers of Key Stages 3 and 4 (ie children aged 11–16) is an updated version of a pack first developed by the CPS in 2014.

The CPS initially said that this pack can only be seen by teachers. Following enquiries from a national newspaper, however, on Thursday evening the CPS quietly made the guidance available on its website.

I note that only the broader guidance for teachers is available to parents. The PowerPoint containing the actual teaching materials – in other words, what children will actually be taught, and how – is still password-protected and inaccessible to parents.

I emailed the CPS to ask them if I may publish the guidance and my commentary. They emailed me on January 27th to ask if they could see my commentary. I emailed it the same morning.

I have had no further communication from the CPS. It was only at around 5pm today – after the Daily Telegraph had contacted them for comment – that the guidance was placed online.

While I am satisfied that parents can at now see the guidance, at least, I am still deeply alarmed by the continued secrecy surrounding the teaching materials PowerPoint – not least because of the serious problems that we have identified in the guidance.

Commentary on the CPS Schools Guidance

I am very concerned about this guidance. But if I was asked to pick my Top Three, they would be these:

  • At page 25 there is an alarming list of behaviours, some of which are trivial or undefined that are offered as examples of ‘hate’ – this is particularly concerning as the Guidance repeats throughout that there is no statutory definition of homophobia or transphobia, and a ‘hate’ crime or incident relies entirely on the subjective perception of the alleged victim or bystander. This list includes ‘ostracising from a friendship group’ and separately (and undefined) ‘rejection’.
  • At page 33 there is an apparent attempt to create a ‘hierarchy of rights’ and to place LGBT+ at the top. This would seem to be unlawful as it discriminates against other characteristics protected by the Equality Act, such as race and disability. Surely schools should be developing robust policies against bullying which apply to all children, not attempting to set up one minority group as more deserving of protection.
  • I note that section 4 has as ‘activity 1’ ‘identifying potential criminal charges’. I am troubled by the implications of this, in the context of guidance that purports to help teachers and students ‘identify and report’ hate crime. Nor am I clear what a teacher is supposed to do if they or a student identify another classmate as having displayed ‘hateful’ behaviour. Where will it be recorded and to whom will it be disclosed?

Given that the guidance is very clear about how seriously such hate crimes and incidents should be taken, I am worried that a clear incentive is being set up here to encourage students to report one another’s behaviour or for a teacher to feel under pressure to refer it on to the police.

It is giving a very clear message to girls that anyone can be any ‘gender’ they like (including ‘pan’ ‘omni’ and ‘a’ sexual, none of which are defined anywhere in the guidance) and that it is ‘hate’ to object to anyone in your space, or to ‘reject’ them – again undefined but clearly means something other than social ostracism as that is given its own separate mention. So what DOES ‘rejection’ mean in this context? It has to mean sexual rejection. There is no other way children can ‘reject’ each other. They aren’t offering employment prospects.

I am therefore very troubled that this guidance is apparently only being made available to teachers. As is sadly common with all documents I have read which purport to promote the rights of the ‘trans child’, I can see no acknowledgement of or discussion about parental responsibility or Gillick competence in this guidance. As it is aimed at 11-year-olds I consider that is a potentially serious omission.

I hope that shortly a legal challenge will be made to this guidance. The time to speak up is now.

As Mumsnet poster Michelleoftheresistance said:

“It’s already known the massive comorbidities going on with children presenting with gender identity issues, pretty much the same comorbidities coming up over and over again for other vulnerable kids. Treating one group as more privileged and better served than others is going to create resentment, particularly at a time when mental health care and SEND provision is dire and many families are angry and struggling. It will do nothing to meet the Code of Practice or Equality Act’s requirement to promote good relationships between groups: this will actively damage it. It does nothing to address the root problems underlying why children are becoming confused and distressed about their identities and bodies. It’s also inevitably going to incentivise transitioning. And that’s on top of the always there, bald insensitivity and rejection of female kids with history of abuse and sexual trauma, female kids whose religions don’t allow for going along with personal choice of sex over reality, female kids whose disabilities won’t bend in that direction, etc etc.”

Sarah Phillimore
Sarah Phillimore

Sarah is a barrister and member of Fair Cop.

She works as a specialist family lawyer has particular interest and experience in care proceedings, and private law children applications.

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