Four teenagers have been charged with hate crimes involving the racial abuse of fellow pupils at an Aberdeenshire school.
The alleged incidents happened in the north-east between September and January and have been condemned by politicians and equality groups in the region.
Police told the Press and Journal yesterday that the four youngsters were charged this week after the matter was reported to them by a member of the public.
Community Policing Sergeant Kevin MacDonald told us: “Four pupils, aged 13, 14, 15, and 16 have been charged in relation to acting in an allegedly racially aggravated manner.
“The pupils have been reported to the Youth Justice Management Unit.
“Police Scotland takes a zero tolerance approach to any form of hate crime and we regularly work with the schools and our partners across the division to address any issues.
“Hate incidents of any type are thankfully very low in schools across the north east with the vast majority of pupils treating each other with respect.
“Hate crime inputs are regularly delivered by our School Liaison Officers in partnership with school staff in all our schools, and we continue to encourage anyone with concerns to report these to police on 101.”
The woman who reported the alleged incidents said yesterday she was shocked and distressed at the racism she had encountered in recent months.
She revealed this included the victims repeatedly being called n*****.
“Where are the parents in all of this?” she asked.
“ Where do children in 2018 get these views? Are these hateful attitudes actually representative of Scottish sentiment?
“As uncomfortable as this might make us feel, there are some serious questions that we need to ask ourselves.
“When the school has exercised all their powers and the police have made formal charges, the responsibility lies with the parents.”
Aberdeenshire East MSP Gillian Martin said schools chiefs had to do more to stamp out racist and other abusive behaviour.
She said: “The Scottish Government has made it clear that hate crime will have zero tolerance.
“This includes offences, regarding disabilities, race, sexual orientation and religion. I am shocked and appalled to hear pupils in my constituency have been allegedly involved in crimes related to race.
“No one should face persecution because of the colour of their skin.
“I would like to thank the community policing team for their efforts and I will be writing to Aberdeenshire Council to discuss how we can educate young people to prevent incidents like this recurring.”
Her words were echoed by north-east MSP Lewis Macdonald who added: “Bullying is always wrong, and picking on someone at school who is supposedly ‘different’ from the rest of the class is particularly cruel and hurtful.
“Teenagers whose behaviour has been so bad as to lead to police charges need to have a good look at themselves.
“If they treat all their classmates with respect, they might earn some respect themselves.”
An Aberdeenshire Council spokesperson responded: “We take any allegations of bullying seriously.
“However, as there is a police investigation into the alleged incidents, it would be inappropriate for the council to comment further.”
The police confirmed the teenagers will appear before the youth justice authorities at a later date.