A ten-year-old boy was bullied so badly by racists at school that he tried to take his own life.
Caleb Hills tried to take his own life last year after fellow pupils spent two years taunting him with the ‘n-word’ – and teachers told him he needed to build a “resilience to racism.”
The Orchard School in Canterbury, Kent, recorded almost 200 “racial incidents” in the two years when Caleb studied there.
Records show the primary school only has four pupils of mixed ethnic background out of 101 students.
His mum Tyler Hills has accused the school of failing to protect her son, and now the council have offered to pay for private education for the youngster.
Tyler said her son, who is of mixed race, was made to sit and accept his bullies’ apology as they paid “lip service” to the school’s behaviour system.
As the bullying continued, Tyler said her “lovely, bubbly, talkative” boy’s personality “changed dramatically.”
He grew anxious and reluctant to go to school before eventually trying to hang himself last summer.
The mum-of-four said: “I found him in his bedroom. I felt sick to the pit of my stomach, and helpless.
“He said ‘they keep calling me mean things, they’re not nice to me, I keep telling the teachers but they’re not listening.”
Tyler, 46, of Chartham, Kent, removed Caleb from the school in May after the suicide attempt saying staff there had “more than enough time” to resolve the bullying.
The youngster, who has a range of learning disabilities, is now out of education and taking antidepressants.
Recalling how Caleb first told her he had been called the n-word, Tyler said: “My gut dropped. He asked ‘what does it mean?’.
“I thought ‘how dare you allow my child to be treated like that?’
“I’ve got to sit here and explain to him what this means. He’s a baby – I shouldn’t have to be going through all this, not at this age.
“The school’s pastoral manager told me Caleb needed to build a resilience to racism.
“I said: ‘Excuse me’ he never needs to build a resilience to it and he backtracked.
“We are in the 2019 and schools should be at the forefront of cracking down on racism, not condoning it under the guise of special needs.
“It may be the reason for it but it’s not an excuse.”
Caleb says other pupils would use derogatory racial slurs both near him and aimed directly at him.
He said: “It made me angry and upset because I know what the n-word actually means.”
“I didn’t want to go to school because they harassed me all day.”
Teachers at The Orchard School had Caleb sit down with his name-callers so they could apologise according to their behavioural system.
But as the abuse continued, Tyler grew concerned about the school’s reliance on the practice.
She said: “You can’t force him to sit there while children pay lip service and make him accept their apology.”
CEO of the Restorative Justice Council, Jim Simon, raised concerns about the number of times the practice was used to deal with the situation.
He added the large number of racial incidents recorded at the school “suggest the current systems in place are not having the desired impact.”
Tyler, who is now Caleb’s full-time carer, fears it will be another year before a space is found for him at an appropriate special needs school.
She added: “He will not return to any school run by Kent County Council (KCC).
“Having him out of school means I am looking after him 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
“I love my child dearly, but I need a break and he needs an education.”
Kent County Council has agreed to pay for Caleb to attend an independent school.
The Orchard School’s Head teacher Annabel Lilley said: “School staff, governors, the local authority and I worked extensively with Caleb’s mother to try to bring about a solution that Ms Hills would be satisfied with and that would enable him to remain here.
“Caleb was well-liked and was doing well and we are sorry he is no longer a part of our school community.”
Caleb’s mum said she is now concerned for other black or minority ethnic children at The Orchard School, which as of June had 101 pupils, just four of whom are from “mixed heritage backgrounds”.
Mrs Lilley said their approach to discipline is “effective in the majority of cases” and that they take bullying “extremely seriously.”
She added: “We are a special school and a very high proportion of our primary-aged pupils have additional speech, language and communication needs.
“This means they can sometimes use language that is inappropriate and can be hurtful to other pupils and on occasions, including in this case, the words used may relate to another pupil’s race or heritage.”
She added: “The local authority and the school’s full governing body carried out thorough investigations into the way staff use restorative justice to deal with these types of incidents and both organisations were satisfied with the findings, as was Ofsted.”