Clauses Noted: 1, 6
Publication: Manchester Evening News
Mr Peter Colgan of Stockport, Cheshire, complained that a report headlined "Five pupils kicked out of school after race abuse fight" in the Manchester Evening News on 17 April 1998 was inaccurate in breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy) and that three children were identified in breach of Clause 6 (Children) of the Code of Practice.
The article reported that the complainant's son and others had been expelled for fighting and that the parents of two of them had claimed that their sons were victims of racist abuse. The complainant denied any racist element to the incident or that any such suggestion had been made. He also objected that his son and the other two boys were named. The newspaper said the piece was based on claims by the parents of two of the boys and it made clear these were allegations made by one side. They offered the complainant an opportunity to reply which was rejected. They did not believe that publication of the boys' names breached Clause 6. Their school life had not been interrupted, other than by the school authorities' action. Their names would be known to many people inside and outside the school. The allegations of racist conduct in the school were of sufficient public interest to warrant inclusion of their identities, which also precluded misidentifying other boys.
The Commission recognised that the subject of racism in schools is a matter of public interest on which the newspaper was entitled to report, but was concerned that the newspaper had identified the three boys in connection with allegations of racist behaviour. The Code states that children must be free to complete their time at school without unnecessary intrusion. At the time of publication, it did not appear that these allegations on a highly sensitive matter had been tested and the Commission found no public interest in identifying those involved.
The complaint under Clause 6 was upheld.
The Commission noted that the newspaper had presented the claims as allegations, rather than as fact, and that they had offered the complainant an opportunity to reply. The complaint of inaccuracy under Clause 1 was rejected.
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