The Ugly Racism Forcing Children out of a Plymouth School
The families featured in this article are proud to speak out against racism. Plymouth Live has taken the decision not to name or picture the children as they settle into their new schools.
An 11-year-old black boy was teased about the Klu Klux Klan and called a N***** almost every day during his time at a Plymouth school.
The mother of the boy, who started at Lipson Co-Operative Academy in September, said bullies made her son’s life so difficult she has been forced to move him to a different school.
Another concerned mother said she too is transferring her daughter, also in Year 7, from the school after she was a victim of racist bullying.
The school insists that all complaints against bullying and discrimination are immediately acted on and that the protection of students is its top priority.
Harry – not his real name – said he was targeted shortly after he started at the school.
“They’ve called me the N word," he said.
"They’ve made fun of my hair.
“It made me feel really sad and like I wasn’t wanted at all.”
The youngster, who recently turned 12, added that he was pushed and shoved by other students and was subjected to threats of violence.
“They threatened to beat me up,” he told Plymouth Live. “They were saying that if I told about their smoking and drinking in the woods next to the school then they’d beat me up.”
He and his mother said the incidents, which took place on the football pitch, in the classroom and on the bus, gradually got worse over time.
Harry, who has lived in the South West his whole life, said at first he made new friends and enjoyed school life but after he joined a rugby team with older children, he became a target.
As soon as I joined [the rugby team] they just started to hate me," he said.
"They were always rough with me, insulting me – making fun of my hair. I went to go and tell the teacher and he didn’t really care."
"One time we were playing football. I got past the child. He then said you 'F***ing N*****'."
Harry said he didn't respond to the bullies but was left hurt buy their cruel words.
"I didn’t say anything back really," he said.
"I just tried to walk away and get it sorted with the teachers but obviously that hasn’t happened.
"I would normally call my mum in school and she would ring up the reception."
Asked how often he was picked on, Harry said: “Nearly every day. It was mainly on the bus and in class. It’s a lot of people. They do it over and over.”
On one occasion Harry said a boy chanted “KKK” at him during a lesson.
He didn’t know anything about the white supremacist group and was left upset after looking it up online.
“I didn’t understand what that meant,” he said. “I didn’t think my mum would want me knowing about these things just yet. At school he screamed it out in the middle of class. I was a bit clueless.
“The teacher did hear it but they didn’t really act on it. He said ‘[my name] KKK’ over and over.”
Harry's mum said: "I am quite a strong person and I teach my child to be strong and I wanted to work it out with the school; I really wanted us to work through it.
"In life you are going to find bullies everywhere so I wanted to teach my son that way but when it started affecting my son’s emotional wellbeing and I could see my child not being the child that he was ready to be that’s when I said 'what do I do?'
"Do I stay and try to hold on or do I move him? The decision for his own sake was to move him because I want him to do well, I know he will do well."
On some days, Harry would call his mum up to five times during the school day.
She said she has spent hundreds of pounds on taxis to make sure he got home safely. Now she hopes that by speaking out she will help encourage parents to talk about racism with their children.
"I’m never angry with children," she added.
"I’m angry with the situation, with the way things have played out – with the administration within the school, the head and the way they have dealt with it.
"But I do believe children they get it from home, where else?
"I’m angry with the situation and the people who are responsible for those children, whether that’s the parents or the school.
"Every school has a legal obligation to safeguard their children, not only my son but the ones that are being the bullies, and I haven’t felt like they have met that obligation at all."
She said she feels like she hasn't been listened to - and wants others to recognise the impact racist bullying can have on children.
"I feel like we have been tossed left, right and centre," she said.
"I feel like it’s something in our society that people do not want to deal with.
"I almost was given the idea that he needs to be tougher but then I thought why do you need him to be tougher? If he becomes tough then he’s called a thug, now he’s too soft then there’s a problem. It’s hard to get that balance right.
"Nobody wants to take the blame for anything and nobody wants to be held accountable."
Second child leaving school
Another mother said she is moving her child from the school in September after she too was subjected to racist comments.
She said other children made fun of the colour of her daughter's skin and called her 'cow poo'.
"She was upset," she said. "She's not getting the guidance or the support from the school.
"I tried to give her inspiring words because there's always going to be that one person that makes you feel like that.
"It's not just the physical side of it, it's the psychological impact too.
"Most kids these days are not that strong. It impacts on their learning as well."
She said she felt like the school hasn't addressed the issue.
"The school hasn't dealt with it properly," she said. "They suspended another girl but they didn't even ask me in to speak about it."
Asked where she thinks the children have picked up their views, she added: "I think it's their parents. Kids learn it at home."
Protection of students is top priority, says school
A spokesperson for Lipson Co-operative Academy, said: “As a school we want all our students, without exception, to be able to learn in a happy and caring environment.
“The safeguarding and protection of all students is our top priority. Bullying or discrimination in any form are never tolerated and any complaints of this nature are immediately acted on, involving all appropriate stakeholders.
“It wouldn’t be appropriate for us to comment about any individual pupils.”
The N word
Harry's mum says children and adults need to recognise the significance and pain that the word N***** can cause.
"The excuse that I get when I go into the school is that the children don’t know what the word means," she said.
"I can question that because I have never heard a white child call a white child that name or an Asian child call another Asian child that name.
"I heard people say 'we hear it in songs', but it’s not the same word.
"I can deal with it as an adult, but when your child is being called that it’s painful. It takes me back many generations. My grandparents, who are still alive, and they will tell you stories of people in our family who were raped or killed for that some word.
"My point of meeting with the school was for them to know what that word means to us – it is painful, it is wrong.
"If you deal with the children you are helping them too.
"Perhaps if you warn them now if you educate them now, by the time they are 16 or 17, they are not incarcerated, they are not in a detention centre."
Plea for other parents to speak out
Harry's mum said she hopes that other parents in a similar situation can find the strength to speak out and stand up to bullies.
She added: "I want to be able to be a voice for other parents out there. You might not be black, you might be Chinese or Asian – just slightly different and you may have an accent like myself.
"There are parents out there that are afraid to speak out because perhaps they don’t know how to communicate themselves well or they are afraid perhaps they might make the situation worse.
"I hope that when people hear about this they realise that racism is real, it is out there and that people should speak up. They shouldn’t just hold it to themselves – they should say something about it and do something.
"If you look at the statistics, there are a lot of children committing suicide. There are a lot of children, perhaps if you look at the news in America, retaliating and doing crazy things because nobody heard them out. I don’t want my child to be a statistic.
"I’m hoping that somebody out there hears this and says ‘I’ve been there and I’m going to do something about what my child is going through’."
Culled from PlymouthLive