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Antidiscrimination Measures in the Context of Schools in Germany – National Roundtable for Germany 2019

Experiences of discrimination in the context of the school can disturb education careers in the short and long term. They also negatively impact feelings of belonging to the school and to the society at large. This is particularly relevant when the school as an institution or their staff are the sources of discrimination and/or the school fails to protect children and young people and their families from discrimination. Unfortunately, this is a rather common pattern in Germany. At the same time, discrimination and racism in school are hardly ever thematised in Germany, especially not when teachers are accused of being the perpetrators. Schools and educational authorities generally prioritize solidarity with and among teachers over the clarification of discrimination claims and blocking off claims over mediation mechanisms. Even obvious cases of disadvantaged treatment are usually not sanctioned. In the German legal frameworks on protection against discrimination, there are considerable gaps and shortcomings. Hence, a comprehensive protection of students and parents from discrimination is not ensured. No Bundesland in Germany has established functioning structures for reporting claims of discrimination, for mediating in cases of discrimination and, if necessary, for bringing forward procedures for disciplinary sanctions. Initiatives to build up respective structures have been taken over the past few years nearly exclusively by civil society organisations. These organisations have initiated low-threshold, and partially already established, contact points for affected persons. The advantage of these contacts points is that they are independent from institutional pressures within the school system. But this also means that it remains to be seen how, on the long run, these contact points will work together with governmental and municipal institutions and how interventions at school should be targeted in order to eliminate discrimination. Specifically, the following questions need to be clarified: How can meaningful communication between governmental and municipal institutions and civil society organisations be organized and ensured? Which qualifications and evaluation criteria should be applied for school-specific anti-discrimination counselling? The German NRT brought together civil society actors from the field of discrimination in the context of school, including migrant-led organisations, with policy makers and researchers from different Bundesländer. The main goal of the NRT was to discuss and develop strategies for how the issue of anti-discrimination counselling in the school context should and can be carried forward in order to lead to more effective measures by federal, regional and local policy makers. These measures should enable and guarantee appropriate and meaningful responses to cases of perceived and experienced discrimination. They should also lead to the establishment of structures for peer-to-peer exchange of experience and knowledge around school-based anti-discrimination counselling.