Over the last fortnight the national press has picked up a story about a violent incident at Hinde House School in Sheffield.
To take the version initially printed by the Sheffield Star and then picked up by the Mail... three Roma Slovak pupils attacked another boy following an argument “about a football”. The victim was “punched to the ground” and left with a broken nose. The school has now, the reports continue, been presented with a 1,600 name petition demanding that, in the words of one parent “something be done”.
Other reports breathlessly describe pupils being “stabbed, mugged and nearly kicked to death.”
Except the real story is somewhat different.
According to sources at the school — as opposed to the collection of random, angry, anonymous internet commentators and bored Mail hacks — a small group of pupils had been making inflammatory remarks to Roma students throughout the day. This escalated into a brief scuffle, during which a student (possibly a bystander) was indeed attacked.
The main description by witnesses — again, let’s just define that as people who were actually there — suggest that it was a tiny minority of pupils and that staff acted in a professional and decisive manner to end the incident almost immediately. Far from it being the chaotic, violent scenario slavered over by the Mail, one pupil went out of his way to praise the school and go on record about how safe he felt there.
As for that petition, no matter how many time the right wing press repeat the lie, it doesn’t have 1600 names. It had the names of around six parents, plus a page or so of other signatures who were unknown to staff and therefore have no connection with the school. It also had a huge wad of blank pieces of paper attached, which made it look very impressive.
So what we have is a story about a unfortunately everyday incident of clashes between students. It was, as is very usual in schools, both provoked and unacceptable.
Rather than look at the real causes, at an education system that is ill-prepared and unable challenge the real causes of racism, the local and national press decide to try and stir up another Rotherham style scandal. Regardless of who else gets hurt in the process, regardless of what damage it does to a community that’s been abandoned and neglected for generations.
There are lots of victims in this case. The tragedy is that the press couldn’t care less about any of them.