'John wished he were dead'

3rd November 2000 at 00:00
JOHN Carnell, now 19, suffered 27 separate incidents of bullying at Harrogate grammar school, including an attack in a chemistry lesson that left him needing hospital treatment after another boy punched him in the kidneys.

Last year he won an out-of-court settlement of pound;6,000 from North Yorkshire Council.

The 15-month bullying campaign began when he was 12 and left him suffering post-traumatic stress disorder.

John and his mother Liz are now determined to help others through their website Bullying Online - www.bullying.co.uk - which has received 42,000 visitors in less than a year.

Liz, a journalist from Harrogate, said: "To this day, I cannot understand why the school did nothing to help John. It got so bad he started telling me how he wished he were dead.

"It all began when John was placed in a special class because he was dyslexic. He would get his book scribbled on and they started stealing his things. It escalated into physical abuse. I used to get calls from other parents telling me what had happened to John. He was so upset he didn't always tell me.

"The school consistently failed to do anything about it. I visited the school and wrote letters to the head, governors and education authority and still it went on. Thehead wrote back saying they weren't going to investigate and they actually tried to blame John. He also said that no other parents had complained about bullying, which I later found was untrue.

"I used to cry because I didn't know what I had to do to protect John. At first, I refused to remove him from the school, I didn't see why he should be the one to leave. But eventually I realised it was hopeless and sent him to another school where, luckily, he made lots of friends and was happy."

John, who now works in IT, said: "Being bullied at school is devastating. Even when you are at home, you spend the whole time dreading going back to school.

"From my experience, I can say teachers are too quick to dismiss bullying as horseplay and simply to tell children to shake hands. But that only makes the problem worse because the bully thinks he has got away with it and can bully the other child even more for snitching on him.

"The problem needs to be taken far more seriously. It has to be dealt with straight away. Some schools seem to wait until there are ten cases of bullying before they will even admit there is a problem. If teachers dealt with every instance of bullying immediately, 90 per cent of the problem would disappear."

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