An award winning media company committed to sharing the perspectives of people of colour from marginalised genders


A Black schoolgirl is beaten up by a gang of bullies, and no one intervenes

content warning!

The video has caused outrage online while other posts claim the voices cheering the attackers belong to their parents and that the headmaster was slow to act.

08 Feb 2023

Content warning: This article contains mention of racial violence.

A video has been circulating on social media of a lone Black girl being viciously attacked by a gang of white girls in Ashford, Surrey on 6 February. The 15-year-old victim, who is a pupil at Thomas Knyvett College, is beaten while voices off camera encourage the attack and direct the assault. The motives for this attack are unclear. However, no scenario makes this violence acceptable. 

The video shows the victim being kicked, punched and pulled by her hair by multiple children. There are adults – possibly relatives – watching and cheering on. People in cars spectating. Other school kids watching, filming and some laughing. No one intervened until the very end, where two teachers, one alleged to be the school’s headteacher, Richard Beeson, strolled over and said, “can we let go, please, thank you” without any sense of urgency. The gang disperses and walks away, despite inciting traumatic violence on the victim. Police have since stated there were two victims of the racist attack, one of whom had to receive medical treatment.

We’ve seen this apathy from the public before. The onlookers watched this spectacle of abuse without feeling compelled to step in, a story so common it has its own term: a passive bystander. In instances of racial violence, watching by and doing nothing to stop it is just as aggressive and actively feeds into the dehumanisation of Black people.

Since the video emerged yesterday afternoon, Surrey Police have confirmed that five people have been arrested on suspicion of attempted racially aggravated grievous bodily harm (GBH): three girls, two aged 11 and one 16-year-old, and two adults, a 43-year-old man and a 39-year-old woman. There’s also a sixth suspect wanted, a 15-year-old girl. 

From Aunties on WhatsApp to Michaela Coel’s Twitter, the video has been circulating across the country via social media. Rapper Dave called for every member of staff in the video to be fired and wrote: “DO THE RIGHT THING BEFORE WE FORCE YOU TO”. While the footage has quickly mobilised a movement, the police are urging people to stop sharing it. Since arrests have been made, the video could now be considered prejudicial evidence if this goes to court. 

The act of sharing videos of racial violence with your community is symbolic of collective grief and standing with the victim, putting the energy and rage we feel about the incident into exposing the perpetrators and ensuring that justice is served. However, in this case, it could do more harm than good, and is triggering, distressing material.

gal-dem reached out to Thomas Knyvett College for comment, and did not receive a response. In an earlier statement the school said “student safety is their paramount concern”, but the fact is, one of their students was violently attacked just outside school grounds and the teachers stepped in far too late. It calls into question the safeguarding practices of the school and the fate of other Black pupils in the area. 

These events of racial violence towards young Black children are all too common. It was only in 2021 where The Guardian reported there had been at least 60,000 racist incidents in UK schools, and the true figure could be much higher as the UK government doesn’t require schools to declare racist incidents. In the advent of Child Q, a 15-year-old Black girl who was strip searched by two Met police officers, and after the death of Shukri Abdi, a school girl who drowned but her death was not treated instantly as suspicious, the Thomas Knyvett College attack is yet another example of safeguarding failings of young Black children. 

Community protests were planned outside the school for Wednesday afternoon.