Bullies choke and beat boy as teachers ‘powerless’

Lewis Calvert with mum Debbie. The ten-year-old frequently comes home covered with cuts and bruises following attacks by bullies at Carrick Knowe Primary. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Lewis Calvert with mum Debbie. The ten-year-old frequently comes home covered with cuts and bruises following attacks by bullies at Carrick Knowe Primary. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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A SCHOOLBOY who was choked, beaten and told to hang himself by classmates has told how teachers appear powerless to stop the vicious campaign of bullying.

Lewis Calvert, ten, says he has been singled out for attack by some of the other pupils at Carrick Knowe Primary almost every day for the last two months and regularly comes home covered in bruises.

Some children have ganged up on the conscientious pupil since he arrived on campus in January, with the sustained cruelty leaving him afraid to go to class.

He has even sheltered in other people’s cars who stopped to help him after seeing him being attacked.

The bullies have even told Lewis he is “not wanted” and should “go and hang” himself, and tried to strangle him.

His distraught parents say Lewis sometimes arrives home covered in bruises and scratches after being pushed to the ground, held down and kicked in the head.

Today, Lewis and his family have decided to speak out to show they will not be beaten by the bullies.

And they hope to give other victims the courage to stand up to intimidation and press schools to take action.

Lewis said: “It has made me feel sad, lonely – the school has not helped.

“I want the school to help. They need to stop people from bullying.

“When I first started at the school, it was nice and further in they started to be nasty to me.

“I have been strangled and kicked in the head.

“I prefer to stay at home now – it got to the point where I didn’t want to go to school, where I started shaking and going mad.

“The things they say make me feel sad.”

Mum Debbie, 31, enrolled Lewis at Carrick Knowe Primary in January after the family moved into the area.

She has been left angry and frustrated after repeatedly pleading for help from the school.

The barrage of abuse included pupils calling his parents “tramps” and refusing to sit near him because he “had a disease”. Although teachers’ attempts to deal with the situation initially proved successful, the relentless bullying returned two months ago.

Ms Calvert said her son had been told to kill himself on three or four separate occasions by different pupils. The attacks have been taking place in the playground and on the way home from school.

“At first it was minor slagging and it seemed to have died down over the past few months.

“But it’s got much worse – it’s been really bad,” she said.

“It was just silly things – they were maybe calling him a tramp and things like that and then aiming it at me and his dad, saying, ‘your mum’s a slag’. They’d say he had a disease.

“The name calling was every day. The physical attacks started with a girl who would kick him in the privates.

“Then this boy who seemed like a ringleader would give him little kicks on the sly without anyone seeing.

“As soon as he came out of school, it would be punching and kicking.

“He would be thrown to the ground and kicked in the head. He’s also been strangled.

“He’s come home with scratches on his neck where they have strangled him and bruises on his leg where he has been kicked.”

She said the school’s anti-bullying policy had failed Lewis and said that the life of her son – who likes nothing better than to “keep his head down” in class – is being ruined.

“I am very angry,” she said. “I am sick and tired of being on the phone to the school constantly.

“About four or five weeks ago, I wanted to contact the police and said that to the school, and they said they would deal with it. But since then it’s been almost non-stop. I just wish they would bring the parents of these children into school and educate them on bullying. And they should make the kids more aware of bullying.

“This big bullying campaign that they have got is useless – it’s not doing anything.

“Lewis is frightened – he’s hardly out playing. He used to be so confident but he’s started to get a real temper. He’s been staying in the house and that’s not good for him.”

She added: “I really want other people to understand what this is doing.”

Education chiefs say Carrick Knowe Primary has a range of robust bullying measures in place to “proactively teach” pupils about the harm it causes. Any allegations are dealt with as soon as they come to light, they said.

A city council spokesman said: “Bullying is completely unacceptable and complaints are taken extremely seriously.

“Staff have offered support to the pupil and spoken to his parents following the incident, which happened on the way home from school.

“Plans have been put in place to resolve any issues and prevent this happening again as we continue to support the pupil.”

He said the parent of another pupil involved would be contacted to tell them what had been happening and how it would be addressed.

Measures in place to tackle problem

CITY schools are implementing a wide range of anti-bullying measures to drive down the incidence of attacks.

An average of nearly three bullying incidents are recorded for every school day across Edinburgh’s 88 primary schools, with about half that number reported in the city’s high schools.

Teachers are updated on the latest policies aimed at stamping out bullying altogether and every campus has equality and anti-bullying guidelines.

Schools undertake their own initiatives, but whole-school training is available on request and a city-wide anti-bullying fortnight is staged every year to raise awareness.

Councillor Paul Godzik, education leader, said: “A lot of positive work is carried out in our schools to promote equality and highlight unacceptable behaviour such as bullying.

“Positive examples include the Boroughmuir bully line and collaboration between shared campus schools Currie Community High and Woodlands over bullying incidents.”

Child welfare leaders said parents also had a crucial role to play.

Mary Glasgow, Children 1st director of children and family services and external affairs, has the following advice for parents. “When someone is experiencing bullying it is important to listen to them. They may not want you to get involved but you may have to act to ensure their safety.

“Where schools are involved talk to the school, be clear about what you want but try to make sure that what you want is realistic. Give the school time to do their job.”

Tell-tale signs..and how to help

Anthony Smythe, managing director of bullying prevention charity BeatBullying, said there were a number of steps teachers and schools could take to protect children:

“If you suspect a pupil may be being bullied, look out for changes in personality such as anger issues, anxiety or becoming withdrawn.

“The signs of bullying aren’t always physical, but actual injuries, even damaged clothes – which can’t be explained convincingly – could be a sign of bullying. Bullied children may also stop taking an interest in group activities or try to avoid school for no obvious reason.

“If you find out a pupil is being bullied, try to be open – bullying is a difficult subject to broach for pupils, but being open, honest and approachable will make it easier for them to discuss their feelings.

“Reassure them – children may worry that the bullying may get worse if the bully finds out they have told someone, so reassure them that you want to help them and make things better.

“Every school should have an effective anti-bullying policy. This policy can be stand-alone or incorporated into the existing behaviour policy in your school.

“It is imperative that this policy is communicated to, and understood by, all staff, governors, parents, and students alike. It should be clearly displayed, and ideally students should be actively involved in writing it.

“Make sure your class is aware of BeatBullying.org where they can access advice and talk to other people their own age for support.”