Schoolboys risk ‘unfair judgment’ in rape culture row

The police should not “pronounce guilt without evidence” when it comes to the school rape culture row, a former home secretary has said, as he warned of “unforseen and dangerous consequences”.

David Blunkett has said that “identity politics” must not be allowed to create an environment in which schoolboys were unfairly judged, following accusations of sexual harassment sweeping British private schools.

Mr Blunkett, Labour education secretary from 1997 to 2001, said the view that there was a “rape culture” in many British schools and colleges was “shocking”.

He added that if this view was widely accepted it could have “dangerous consequences” for boys unfairly accused of sexual misconduct.

Simon Bailey, the National Police Chiefs’ Council’s lead on child protection, said the education system was having a “MeToo moment”, partly influenced by the social media campaign Everyone’s Invited. The campaign allows sexual violence sufferers to anonymously report their experiences online.

Mr Bailey said that every police force in Britain should investigate such claims.

Mr Blunkett, writing in The Mail on Sunday, said: “Dis­turbing as the abuse claims are, it is not right that police chiefs pronounce guilt without the evidence – suggesting that sexual abuse is rampant and endemic in our education system.”

Mr Blunkett added that Britain’s current culture of identity politics had created the illusion of an “all-or-­nothing, in-or­ out, for-you-or-­against-­you world of easy answers and quick solutions”.

He said that “the implication that boys in general are guilty – and should be made to confess to their inadequacy – borders on the absurd”.

On Sunday Dr Patrick Roach, general secretary of teachers’ union NASUWT, echoed Mr Bailey’s claim that reports of sexual misconduct in schools probably represented the “tip of the iceberg”.

Dr Patrick Roach

Dr Patrick Roach

Credit: PA

He said: “I don’t want to get into the realms of demonising boys. But there is definitely a situation in which some boys are engaging in practices which are not acceptable … There needs to be a commitment to investigate issues that arise.”

Dr Roach said teachers have experienced “upskirting, down-blousing” and “inappropriate” touching at school.

The NASUWT general secretary called on teachers to “speak up” and contact the union with their concerns on the issue.

Speaking at the union’s annual virtual conference, Dr Roach said: “If there is a toxic culture in any school, it’s not just toxic for students, it’ll be toxic as well for teachers, for our members.”

He added: “Misogyny and sexism is all too real, all too apparent, whether it’s on the streets, and whether women can walk safely at night, or in our schools, and whether female teachers, female students, can feel that they are safe to walk along the corridors without thinking – having to think about how they’re dressed, whether they’re walking alone and how they’re going to be treated by pupils, or indeed by fellow colleagues, and by parents as well.”

Mr Blunkett said: “No one should excuse boorish, let alone criminal, behaviour. But there are better ways of tack­ling this challenge than rushing to judgment.”

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