Hi, allow me to introduce myself. My name is Joshua Muggleton.
As you can see – my perception is that school is a prison...
I am here to tell you about my own personal experience of bullying – and the effect that it has had on me…
So firstly, here’s a little bit about me…
I’m Joshua Muggleton and I’m 16 years old.
I have Asperger’s Syndrome, which is a form of autism.
I may look pretty normal to you, and apart from wetting my pants right now, I generally act pretty normal too. I say ‘act’ because that is what I have to do in order to cope with being around you so called normal people.
I find facial expressions hard, I find it hard to make eye contact, I find that interacting is very confusing and odd. I have some mild hypersensitivity. The simplest way to think of Aspergers is a lower social IQ.
I am also dyslexic and dyspraxic – which means I have really bad co-ordination skills.
Let me tell you a bit about my school experience…
What Happened To Me
It is not as if I went to bad schools. Both my primary and secondary schools have good records for academic achievement and excellent Ofsted reports.
So what went wrong?
First of all, soon after I started school I realised that I was a bit different from other children. I was repeatedly bullied, teased, and soon discovered I was a misfit. Apparently not many kids walk around the lines on the playground in the middle of summer with a thick coat zipped up to the hood. I became a prime target for bullies.
Somehow I survived primary school. I treated my depression and low self-esteem with my own "chocolate therapy".
But things soon got a lot worse in secondary school.
I have been on more anti-depressants than you have had hot dinners – and eventually I made serious attempts to end it all.
It is my perception that the school did nothing to help stop the bullying.
I had a complete breakdown 2 years ago right in the middle of my GCSE year – and despite the intevention of the LEA’s Education Other Than At School Service, I was eventually signed off school by CAMHS.
I want to say that the breakdown wasn’t solely caused only by the bullying. It was also caused by the schools inability to meet my special educational needs.
I sat my GCSE’s in the local education office, because there was no way I could face going into school to take them.
I’m now studying for A levels with Satellite Virtual Schools, an internet based study programme. However I am struggling with this and I would like to go to 6th form college, but is there anywhere that can give me the support I need? At the moment the answer appears to be ‘no’. I am desperately keen to learn but I still don’t know what I am going to do about my studies in September.
I’d now like to talk a bit about the sort of bullying I experienced which led to my breakdown…
My bullying took many forms, - here’s a few examples.
People randomly tripped me up in the corridor. This was made worse by the fact that due to my Aspergers syndrome, I am not good at organising things and so carried all my books everywhere. My school bag was heavy so being tripped up with it hurt a lot.
I was punched and kicked mostly when the teachers weren’t looking – but sometimes even when they were looking. Nothing was done and it just carried on.
I was tormented everywhere I went – from the class bully flicking my head and kicking the back of my chair. Or the git in the library who would deliberately stand right behind me and read out aloud. Or just the usual verbal abuse.
My perception through all of this was that the teachers didn't want to know. They saw it as work that they didn't have to do, thus no action was taken, to punish the offenders, or to stop it happening again. When the issue was discussed in meetings with my parents and senior staff, the teachers pretty much ignored what I was saying. When they did discuss it, they told me it was my fault, I was to blame, that I was lucky to go to such a good school, that they had done everything they could - without doing anything.
They even said that they found it hurtful that I could accuse them of not doing anything – but looking back to 2 years ago I know that this was the truth.
So what effect do you think this had on me?….
What Effects Bullying has had on me
Firstly, I felt totally worthless, the lowest of the low. My self-esteem hit total rock bottom.
I also became very depressed and on occasions suicidal.
I developed a phobia of schools. It got to a point where I could not go to school, I could not get out of the car, the assembled hordes of Genghis khan could not of got me out of that car. Now, whenever I get close to the school, I feel I rising panic from deep within me. Why? Because I am scared that I might see someone who went there, or goes there. I am now scared to go out.
I was so stressed that my only recollections of school is from my nightmares, which I still have, 18 months, since I last stepped foot in there.
I had panic attacks, which left me aching for days after they were so bad. And I am sure you all can see why, I am now mentally scarred by the whole experience..
Some people ask, " am I angry about what has happened". OF COURSE I DAMN WELL AM!
My life has been totally messed up, because of what happened at that school. If the bullying had been dealt with, and the school had helped me more then I would be a very different person to the one you see in front of you now.
So what could have been done to avoid this?…
What could of happened
Well here are my own ideas...
Teachers wanting to help – I went to a school with a very good reputation, yet out of 125 teachers only about 2 genuinely wanted to help me. Dealing with bullying doesn’t seem a priority to me - I don’t think that the teachers see the long-term consequences of it.
Teachers need to watch out especially for vulnerable people like me. There are too many people like me out there who suffer in silence because we often have problems in communicating it.
Implementation of an effective anti bullying policy – I have done some research on current anti bullying policies, AND THEY ARE MEANINGLESS!!! They do nothing, they are seldom implemented! This is not right!
School need to admit they have a bullying problem. My school, had the ordacity to say "at this school, thankfully bullying is not a problem" well I say any school that says that should be investigated, NO school doesn't have a bullying problem. But what really annoys me, is when they don’t even admit it, and still print this stuff in student journals, when for the past 4 years me and my parents had been highlighting the bullying that had been happening to me.
I think it would be helpful if we could take the problem to someone independent. When I complained to the teachers about the bullying, and said I wanted to complain to the LEA, I was pretty much told "it would be a very unwise move for me" and that it would be very damaging for me. Then they started obstructing me, because I have to go though the school!
There should be a way for a child to be able to tell someone independent if a bullying problem is not being addressed. If I was being attacked outside of school I could go to the police. Why should it not be any different if the attack occurs in school?…
I believe that I have a right as much as anyone else in society to be respected and cared for.
I wasn’t a troublesome student. I never got a single detention. My behavior was exemplary. I was keen to learn, always did my homework and was never late for school.
I didn’t deserve what happened to me.
It doesn't matter how good your school is academically. The fact is that because I was different and stood out I became a prime target for bullies.
Vulnerable children like me need to be protected - especially in mainstream education. If they can’t do that then school becomes a very damaging ordeal. I’m only just beginning to rebuild my shattered confidence and self-esteem.
I hope that today we don’t simply sit round tables and talk about it - but that we actually begin to produce an action plan on what we are going to do about it.
It’s all too late for me - but for goodness sake lets do something about this today.