STUDENTS at The Vyne School have shown what a difference can be made by standing up to racism.

Pupils demonstrated on Monday over the school's handling of recent alleged racist incidents and teachers' repetition of a racial slur.

As a result, the school has now apologised to students, has launched an investigation and will be getting help from Hampshire County Council.

It must have been scary standing up to those they trust with their education yet the pupils have shown it is important not be afraid of challenging accidental or direct incidents of racism.

A study in 2015 found that more than a quarter of 18-29-year-olds thought it was acceptable to say the word in some circumstances. And if teachers are using it, it is no wonder youngsters will repeat it.

Neal A Lester, dean of humanities and former chair of the English department at Arizona State University, suggests white teachers wanting to hold discussions around this word need to bring in people from the Black community.

"You might want to get somebody from the outside to be a central part of any discussion— an administrator, a parent, a pastor or other professional with some credibility and authority. Every white teacher out there needs to know some black people.

"The teacher might begin by admitting, 'This is what I want to do, how would you approach this? Or, how do we approach it as a team? How can we build a team of collaboration so that we all accept the responsibility of educating ourselves and our youths about the power of words to heal or to harm?'", he told Tolerance Magazine.

Caucasian people may wonder why the word is hurtful when it is used in popular culture. Race expert Dr Jacqui Stanford explained in a letter that the word was reclaimed by Black community to give it a "new meaning" to make it approachable and survivable. But she warns it becomes "violent" when other people try to take it and use it.

To quote BBC reporter Cherry Wilson, she said: "When I hear the word I shudder. I think of my dad hearing those words by being chased through the streets by racist football fans."

The word is fraught with hurt, pain and suppression. Kehinde Andrews, professor of Black studies at Birmingham City University, told the BBC: "It's really tied into the idea that African people aren't really human beings. They were more like an animal than a human being, a beast of burden, could be bought and sold, could be thrown overboard ships and literally had no rights."

This week has shown more work is needed to tackle the issue. But with the bravery and compassion our student community has demonstrated, it should fill us all with hope knowing they will be the leaders of tomorrow.

Katie French, Editor