An Italian teacher is under investigation after telling a fifth grade Nigerian boy: “You are ugly”

While over 250,000 people fill the streets of Milan today to say no to racism, a terrible story of discrimination, of humiliation unfolded in a school in the Italian city of Foligno between January and February 2019.

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Sadly enough, we are not new to stories of racism making the Italian news. But when children are involved it becomes ever more urgent for the good people to step in, to speak up, to protect the victims of such abuse. This is the exact purpose of my post. Whilst I cannot be in Italy with my fellow citizens in Milan today to manifest against racism, I will do my part through writing, by telling the facts alone, as they speak for themselves. I will try my best to limit any personal comment my instinct suggests to add, although these same facts brought tears to my eyes and broke my heart.

On February 21st, 2019, Italian media reported a horrifying, shocking event. Headlines read: Foligno, teacher sends black child to the corner: ” Look at how ugly he is children”. This was not an isolated incident.

On February 8th, 2019 a fifth grade boy was invited to follow his teacher, Mauro Bocci, during recess. As instructed the child followed Mr. Bocci into a classroom of the school, one that was not his own. The teacher then pointed out the boy and said: “Look at how ugly he is”. The next day, the same teacher, entered the classroom and referring to the same Nigerian child stated: “Look at how ugly this black child is! Children, don’t you think he’s ugly too? Turn around, so I don’t have to look at you”. To words followed action. Mr.Bocci then asked the boy to turn his desk around, face the window and stare outside. He then added: “Don’t turn around that way I don’t have to see how ugly you are”.

But just when you think things cannot get worse, well, think again. Both the boy’s family and students attending the same school in Foligno reported that Mr. Bocci had acted in the same manner with the Nigerian boy’s sister, a fourth grader, at the end of January 2019. He told the little girl: “I know your brother, you are just as ugly as he is. My, your parents gave you a long name, can I just call you monkey?”.

In the beginning the teacher tried to justify his behavior by declaring he was carrying out a “social experiment” (without parental consent). He then changed his version and is now saying it was “an initiative aimed at sensitizing about integration”.

As we attend a Court of law to pronounce itself on hypothetical crimes of abuse and mistreatment, the School Board has suspended Mauro Bocci who is also expected to undergo a disciplinary procedure.

These are the facts and, this is where I’m going to have to bite my tongue by choosing to leave us all with some food for thought. A reminder of how every single child in the world has the RIGHT to be treated.


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