Sexual bullying: thousands of pupils suspended

A "shocking new trend" in bullying was revealed today as figures showed more than 3,000 children were suspended from school for sexual misconduct.

Around 3,500 pupils in England were given fixed-term exclusions from school for sexual misconduct in the academic year 2006/07 - including 260 in primary schools, statistics from the Department for Children, Schools and Families have shown.

The figures are featured in a BBC1 Panorama programame which also quotes the findings of a survey of 11 to 19-year-olds by the charity Young Voice, showing one in 10 had been forced against their will to take part in sex acts.

Sexual misconduct can cover a range of behaviours from a one-off incident of daubing sexually-explicit graffiti on a wall to name-calling, inappropriate touching and serious sexual attacks.

Groping and the use of sexually-abusive nicknames have become almost part of daily life for some pupils, according to the Panorama programme.

Writing in the Daily Mail, presenter Jeremy Vine said he gathered a group of a dozen mothers and fathers in a bar to talk about sexual bullying.

"They spoke about mobiles, music and the internet, freely admitting that policing TV viewing was nigh-on impossible because of the ease with which children can access programmes out of hours," he said.

Richard Piggin, from the charity Beatbullying, said sexual bullying was "relatively common" and a serious problem.

"We are looking at sexual misconduct, name-calling and also inappropriate touching, and young people being forced into sexual activity that they are not really comfortable with," he told BBC Breakfast.

"There is a significant number of young people that we have worked with who have told us that they have either experienced it, or have witnessed it in their schools or in their community."

The Panorama programme comes after Children's Secretary Ed Balls asked the Anti Bullying Alliance to draw up guidance for teachers on tackling sexual bullying.

The guidance will tackle inappropriate language, advise teachers on how to manage cases of harassment, and encourage healthy friendships between teenage boys and girls amid concerns of misogynistic attitudes linked to gang culture.

The Panorama programme follows widespread publicity last month over the sentencing of nine teenagers in east London for the gang rape of a teenage girl.

* Panorama: Kids Behaving Badly, tonight at 8.30pm, BBC1

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