Boy with a talent in verbal cruelty

14th July 2006 at 01:00
Another day, another phone call threatening violence. There can be no doubt that Jake is a nutter and there is no doubt that he caught it off his mother.

These things follow the same pattern. Mrs Beale telephones, shouts down the phone for a while. The office staff tell her that they are going to put the phone down and report her to the police. I then phone her back and tell her she should not do it. She then apologises for being so steamed up but what am I going to do about Jake being bullied?

Very little, if truth be told. Of course I promise to hold another meeting.

Jake's problem is that he does not understand what he is doing. He makes comments about others all the time. He questions their hygiene, he insults their families. He is then surprised when they react.

Jake is provocative, sneering and devious. He also has a talent that few others in the school can match. He has an instinctive understanding of the things he can say that will cause maximum hurt. It is not an intellectual judgement, but he seems to know precisely where others are most vulnerable.

When I see him operate, I know that I am in the presence of someone with a unique and unexpected skill.

Jake is always hitting other children or man-handling them. When they complain he does not understand the problem. He was only being playful.

When it happens to him he has been assaulted. Then he is being bullied, and then his mother is on the phone.

Mrs Beale will not accept any criticism of him. He is never at fault. What I see is a constant stream of incident reports. What she sees is her poor son who is always targeted by vindictive teachers who apparently spend all their days plotting to get him.

Jake did spend some time in a unit where his behaviour was exemplary, the perfect student. Mrs Beale reminds me of this all the time. But this was because they did not let him mix with others. When they let him go and he came to secondary school he could seek out new victims.

I think deep down Mrs Beale realises that Jake is badly damaged. But she does not want to confront it. So she blames the school. This rage she feels against us is a convenient screen behind which she can hide and so defines her life. By so doing, she poisons her son and gives approval to his actions. And all the while Jake and her steal my precious time.

Ian Roe is a teacher in north Wales

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