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Sussex families tell how they have been ripped apart by school bullying
The shocking scale of bullying in Sussex schools has been highlighted by parents who have spoken out after The Argus reported how a young victim tried to take her own life.
A mother who has told how she herself was driven to the brink of suicide because of school bullies is just one of dozens of parents to come forward to tell their heartbreaking stories.
The 52-year-old from Brighton, who asked to remain anonymous, contacted us after we exclusively told how Shoreham schoolgirl Charlotte May took an overdose of tablets last week after being abused online.
The woman, whose son attended a Brighton school, described how other pupils filmed him as he was crushed between industrial-sized bins.
His mother said eventually the abuse became so severe he attempted to strangle himself while at school.
It was shortly after this that his mother moved him to another school in East Sussex.
The mother of the boy, who has autism, said: “It was a nightmare.
“He was squashed between dustbins and his face was put on an image of a midget.
“This was then recorded and put on YouTube.”
She revealed how her son was so devastated that he tried to strangle himself and the situation also drove her to take an overdose.
Other claims from parents reveal both physical, verbal and cyber bullying.
One mother told The Argus how she was only made aware that her daughter was being bullied after she was pushed over a wall for wearing glasses.
A father said he logged onto his 12-year-old daughter's Facebook account and saw 145 comments targeted at her friend.
He said the comments were “sexual, rude and upsetting” and one said “they would urinate on her [the girl's] grave”.
The father said: “I was so upset I physically vomited.”
Another Brighton parent said: “My daughter was and we've recently moved her because she was physically and mentally abused.”
The Argus contacted the school where the boy attempted to strangle himself and was referred to Brighton and Hove City Council.
A spokesman from the council said: “We take issue with a number of the claims that have been put to us today by The Argus but rules around confidentiality mean we are unable to comment on specific allegations. The school is one for pupils with complex needs and the best interests of our pupils are at the heart of everything we do.”
Chair of Brighton and Hove City Council's children and young people committee, Councillor Sue Shanks, said: “Tackling bullying is a matter for individual schools and each school is required by law to have steps in place to deal with it.
“The city council, in partnership with colleagues in the community and voluntary sector, offers guidance and support to schools on preventing and responding to bullying.
“Since 2005 the amount of reported bullying in our secondary schools has halved from around a quarter of pupils to around 12% of pupils, as shown in local survey data.”
A West Sussex County Council spokeswoman added: “We take all cases of bullying very seriously, and work with schools to ensure that these matters are treated seriously. If parents are at all concerned about bullying, they should raise with the school in the first instance or alternatively telephone the WSCC Action Against Bullying support line on 0845 075 1010 to seek advice.”
If your child is aged 11 to 17, they can get advice and support from mentors their own age and professional counsellors at www.BeatBullying.org.
How to talk to your child about bullying
Charity BeatBullying has provided The Argus with advice on how to talk to your child about bullying.
- Be open - Bullying is a difficult subject to broach with your children, but being open, honest and approachable will make it easier for them to discuss their feelings.
- Praise them for opening up - It's not easy for children to admit out loud that they are being bullied, so praise them for taking that important step.
- Reassure them - Despite so many children going through it, there is still a huge stigma associated with bullying. Reassure your child that they are not alone.
- Work together - If can be tempting, but if you take matters into your own hands and go off and deal with the bullying by yourself, you will make your child feel more helpless. Instead, let your child know that you will not go behind their back or do anything to get help without talking to them about it and having their agreement.
- Get help from others - Encourage your child to report the problem to the most appropriate teacher at their school.
How to tackle cyberbullying
- Save or screengrab and print out any bullying messages, posts, pictures or videos you receive.
- Always report anything abusive you see online to the site concerned. Flag it, report it, or talk to someone about it.
- Never respond or retaliate, as this can just make things worse. Instead, block any users that send you nasty messages.
- Think very carefully before posting photos of yourself online. Remember that once your picture is online, anyone can download it and share it or even change it.
- Do not pass on cyber bullying videos or messages about other people. Don't just ignore it. If you see cyberbullying going on, report it and offer your support.
Last month The Argus revealed nearly six pupils are bullied every school day in Brighton and Hove.
In the last academic year 1,087 instances of bullying at schools in the city - an average of 5.7 every day at school - were reported to Brighton and Hove City Council.
Almost a fifth of incidents were racially motivated, with 118 incidents being reported in primary schools and 96 in secondary schools between September 2012 and September 2013.
The new figures come as a national bullying charity applauds the Brighton and Hove City Council's efforts to combat the problem.
The detailed results, released following a Freedom of Information request, are available because of a new council initiative to record the type of bullying to track trends and measure the impact of prevention work.
Results from a council-run investigation into bullying at the city's schools are due to be revealed in April.
Primary schools reported youngsters are being hounded because of their religion (13 times), due to disabilities/medical reasons (13 times), sex (nine times), appearance (37 times), home circumstances (nine times) gender identity (16 times) and sexual orientation (71 times).
Bullying which did not fall into one of these categories was recorded as 'other'.
Secondary school children were far more likely to be picked on for their appearance and medical reasons than younger children, the figures revealed.
Secondary school children were bullied because of their religion (ten times), due to disabilities/medical reasons (75 times), sex (11 times), appearance (101 times), home circumstance (four times) gender identity (27 times) and sexual orientation (41 times).
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