Bullying and xenophobia allegations in Kells, County Meath. Gardai must investigate and act if true

Saturday, 24 March 2012
Parents Go Public Alleging bullying of Child
Appalling Saga of Bullying Alleged in Press Release

Below is the full text of the Press release issued today by Gerard and
Liza Dalton of Kells Co Meath alleging the ongoing bullying of their
son and how it has not been dealt with properly up to now:

To whom it may concern,

We wish to bring to your attention the following sequence of
disturbing events to which our family and especially our youngest son
have been subjected in recent months in Kells. Co Meath, Ireland. What
will emerge below is a damning indictment of racial and xenophobic
intolerance in modern Ireland.

By way of background, we relocated to Ireland in June 2010 from South
Africa following a brutal family murder and ongoing violence in South
African society. Gerard is an Irish citizen who lived in SA for
several years, his wife and children are born and bred South Africans.
Below is a sequence of events to date:

-Sept 2011 – Son starts at new school, having experienced racial
bullying at previous school (very small rural school in Co Meath,
Ireland)

-Oct 2011 – Son comes home having been punched in the face – this was
not reported to us by the school. We went in the next day and the
Principal’s response was he doesn’t call in parents every time there
is an “altercation” between boys. We mention that our son has informed
us of organised fights at break time, the Principal vehemently denies
this. Our son reports to us he is being teased over his accent.
Principal denies any bullying but agrees to monitor situation.
He also encourages our son not to be a tattle tale after we bring up
other issues which came to light. This he also relayed to our son by
the Principal, this was done to improve the chances of him making
friends and not be seen as a rat.

-November 2011 – We are called by the school to tell us our son is
injured we need to collect him, I found him semi conscious, dizzy,
slurred speech and very pale after an “accidental” clash of heads
during PE class. In Cavan A&E he has CT scan and diagnosed with severe
concussion. Suffers headaches and double vision for about 4 days.

-December 2011 – We observe the group of boys involved in bullying,
some of whom live in the same estate, coming into our property several
times and playing nick nack, xmas decorations are stolen from our
porch.

-Jan 2012 – First day back to school after Christmas break, found
tyres on our car deflated- reported to Gardai, rang Principal as we
know first names of boys but not surnames so Gardai cannot take
complaint. He tells us to buy a cctv system and come with proof to
him.

-25th Feb 2012 – Front lounge windows hit with oranges, we witness the
boys – call police – told they busy with road blocks, no cars
available. One hour later numerous eggs hit house windows walls and a
rental car. Again we witness them being thrown. Again call police. We
stand on pavement outside house, ask a few local kids for surname of
one local boy, it is given. 1 hour later 4 boys at our driveway,
looking in and laughing, our eldest son (16) runs after them and asks
if it was them who egged the house, they deny, he says ok and comes
back.
Our 10 year old is traumatised by these events and breaks down crying.
What came out then was the fact that these boys and others have been
racially abusing our son for months, calling him a “F**king foreigner”
and mocking and imitating his accent. Eventually Gardai turns up 4
hours later! We provide name and address of one boy and first names of
others. The Gardai return after being at house of boy and tells us
they deny everything. The Gardai also say as boys are under 12 there
is no criminal responsibility and they can do nothing about  the
situation.

-Monday 27th Feb 2012 – Our son is afraid to go to school, we keep him
at home and telephone the Principal and tell him what happened. The
Principal asks why our son has not told him of incidents at school. We
remind him of his “advice” not to be a rat.
That evening another concerned parent and her son, who is in same year
as ours, comes to the house. The boy tells us of the fact that on a
daily basis our son is being brought to the point of tears due to
racial bullying over his accent. Furthermore he tells us that the
bully who the gardai called to is bragging in playground that day that
he got away with the egging and is coming back for our car.
Most disturbingly, the boy who was in the “accidental” head clash
causing our son concussion has been bragging that he deliberately head
butted our son, and also got away with it. This child also without
prompting spontaneously described the organised fights which are
happening in the school.

-Tuesday 28th Feb 2012 – We call the Gardai and make formal statement
about the 2 assaults on our son- the punch in the face and the head
butt incident. We call Dept of Education, we get bounced around the
HSE, Education Dept, Education Welfare Officers, Social Workers etc –
a brilliant case of buck passing for 2-3 days and still NO ONE is
intervening on our behalf.
We hand delivered detailed letter to the school’s Board of Management
and requested meeting and investigation.

-Thursday 1 March 2012 – We speak to a Sergeant who informs us that
the Principal had suggested the head clash was our son’s fault and our
version of events was in contradiction to his therefore no further
investigation of incident. We are in shock. We contact school and
under freedom of information act ask for a copy of the accident log,
we also remembered that we had claimed medical
cost through schools pupil insurance scheme which also had report from
principal. We contacted the insurance company and requested copy of
claim form. We got both documents which clearly support our version of
events and contradict the evasive version the Principal gave to
Gardai. The insurance claim was completed by him in his own hand
writing and signed by him.
When I collected the accident log from school, had a brief chat with
Principal he again denied any bullying, and informed me that [Board of
Management] BOM were meeting on Monday next in private and we were not
invited.

-Friday evening 2 March 2012 – Youngest son’s birthday. We met with
the Sergeant and presented both documents to support our version of
events, they now accepted our version, said they would call to houses
of 2 boys this evening, and interview Principal on Monday. 45mins
after getting home my wife answers call from a Garda (the one who took
the original complaint re. car tyres), she
informs my wife that she has just had ” a very concerned parent” of a
boy whom allegedly our oldest son had threatened and verbally abused
(this is the one who threw the eggs). The garda wanted to come to our
house and formally caution our eldest son. My wife refused, and we
were threatened with arrest and that a senior officer would come to
the house and “force” the caution on our eldest son.
I immediately contacted the Sergeant we had met earlier and told him
what had happened. I told him this was a false accusation and
obviously further intimidation of us as a family. He rang back after
speaking to the garda who had wanted to issue caution and told me they
would not be coming tonight to issue caution but had an appointment to
meet the other family tonight (Sat) and would call to us afterwards.
Our youngest who is being bullied broke down after all this drama and
panic in the house asking why are the police coming for his big
brother.

-Saturday 3 March 2012 – We removed all children from the house as we
expected to be arrested for obstruction of justice for refusing
caution. Contacted a criminal solicitor who informed that the Gardai
had no charge and to refuse them entry to the house.

-Sunday 4 March 2012 – Gardai arrived early evening, we confirmed that
they were not there to issue a caution. Gardai inform us that they had
visited 6 different families but all denied involvement. Gardai
received undertaking from families that they would not interfere with
us again.

-Monday 5th March 2012 – Delivered second letter to school for Board
of Management, addressed to all members excluding Principlal. In this
letter we highlighted the evasive nature of the Principlal’s response
to Gardai enquiries. We were not invited to this board meeting. We
receive a phone call just before 9 pm asking us to come to school, we
were unable to attend and arranged meeting for the following day.

-Tuesday 6 March 2012 – Meeting held with some members of the board.
Meeting was recorded with consent of all parties. Board was initially
reluctant to concede problem with bullying in the school. Difficult
and heated meeting for 1 hour and 42 minutes. Eventually board
admitted that they failed our son. Solutions proposed see attachment.
Son to return to school Thursday 8thMarch 2012. -Wednesday 7 March
2012 – Son and teacher meet at school to discuss ‘secret’ method of
communication. Class teacher and son were to finalise this the
following morning before school.

-Thursday 8 March 2012 – Son finishes school day, reports that he had
been taunted over egg throwing and called names after school. Son is
visibly distressed and refuses to go back to school.
We went immediately to see the Principal and inform him of what had
happened. Teacher had not finalised ‘secret’ signal and son couldn’t
alert him to what was happening.

-Friday 9th March 2012 – Son kept out of school as fearful yet again.

-Monday 12 March 2012 – Son returns to school after debriefing.
Teacher finalises ‘secret’ signal. Principal was due to give talk
during assembly on bullying but this didn’t materialise due to
confirmation photographer at school. Principal did give individual
talks to each class.

-Wednesday 14 March 2012 – Son has a good day at school, seems relaxed
and enjoying school again. House egged again that afternoon. Gardai
are summoned. Camera was not running at the time so no footage
available. Started camera then and caught the bullies passing by
looking in and laughing.

-Thursday 15 March 2012 – Take video clip to Principal. He confirms
identity of boys. Principal notes their names. Get phone call from
Principal later that day and he informs us of existence of a facebook
page. We go back to school to meet with him. Principal gives us a
screen grab of the facebook page. Principal informs us that the page
has been removed. We demand another board meeting to discuss
suspension and possible expulsion of those responsible for the hate
page.
Principal stated that expulsion was not an option for primary schools
and that the maximum suspension was three days. We take the screen
grab to the Gardai. Gardai confirm that it is incitement to hatred and
a serious offence. Mother of boy responsible for page comes to our
house seeking resolution and forgiveness. We inform her that the
situation is too serious and that Gardai have been notified. Gardai
meet with parents and boy who set up the page. Other children and
parents from the page don’t bother keeping appointment with Gardai.
Gardai confirm no prosecution is possible due to age of offenders. We
look at facebook profiles of other boys involved and realise that the
hate page had been circulated to approximately 200 other people
including many students from the school.

-Friday 16 March 2012 – We advise the Principal on level of exposure
of this hate page. Inform Principal that we are removing son once
again for his own protection. Principal agrees that son should not be
made aware of this hate page. Unfortunately our son had been made
aware of this page by another student in school during the course of
Wednesday.

-Tuesday 20 March 2012 – Son not at school. Board of Management holds
closed meeting. We had prepared a submission for the meeting. Was not
afforded opportunity to present it to the board as meeting was held in
the morning. Spoke to Principal in the afternoon. Principal refuses to
discuss outcome of meeting. We are told to wait for a letter from the
chairman of the board. No time scale is given as to when we will
receive letter. We express our disgust at the fact that we were
excluded.
Mother of boy who set up hate page arrives again at our house. She
requests to meet at local hotel so that we can ‘sort this out between
us’. We refuse and ask her to leave our property.

-Thursday 22 March 2012 – Receive BOM decision via email. BOM has
decided not to take any action against the bullies. The BOM is taking
the facebook incident in isolation and not attributing it to bullying
behaviour in the school. This despite the fact that they have conceded
that our son is indeed being bullied in school.
In conclusion at no stage has anyone enquired as to the well being of
our son. This case is not being treated with fair procedure and
urgency which it obviously deserves. The fact that our son is being
denied his right to education whilst the bullies continue school
unpunished and are roaming the streets of Kells on a daily basis
clearly demonstrates the injustice of this situation. The effect of
all of this on our son cannot be underestimated, he is already trying
to modify his accent around home, when we talked to him about it it
said he is trying to get rid of his South African accent to fit in
more at school.

It is widely acknowledged that bullying in schools in Ireland, whether
it be racial or otherwise, is an ever increasing problem. As quoted by
Dr Mona O’Moore from the Trinity anti-bullying centre: ‘Within in the
last year, I’ve heard of at least four secondary school students who
have died by suicide because of bullying. There was also one eight
year old who took that drastic step.’

We as a family are no longer prepared to allow us and our son to be
intimidated by ten and eleven year olds and their irresponsible
parents and an ineffective board of management at the school. We are
disgusted that the Children’s act is protecting the bullies and not
our son. We will stop at no lengths to highlight this problem in the
Kells area and hopefully from doing so, someone in authority will have
the guts to stand up for what is our constitutional right namely to
live in peace and that our son get the education in a safe
environment, which he deserves and wants, free from racial abuse,.

This is a very shortened version of events as there are many other
details which we do not want to disclose at this point. We feel that
the information we have provided here paints a disturbing enough
picture. If you require any additional information please feel free to
contact us.
Gerry and Liza Dalton
Kells, Co Meath