Racism nightmare for Meath family

The following is a story of racism and how it impacts on a family and further the inappropriate response of agencies responsible.  Deference to ‘authorities’ and indecisiveness on the part of relevant agencies pervades.’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’.-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 principals 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 principle 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 principle, 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 returns after being at house of boy and tells us they deny everything.  The Gardai also says 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 principle asks why our son has not told him of incidents at school. We remind him of his “advise” 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, Edu Dept, Edu 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 sons 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 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 Gardai (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 gardai 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 Principle. In this letter we highlighted the evasive nature of the principles 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 8th March 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 principle 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.  Principle was due to give talk during assembly on bullying but this didn’t materialise due to confirmation photographer at school.  Principle 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 principle.  He confirms identity of boys.  Principle notes their names.  Get phone call from principle later that day and he informs us of existence of a facebook page.  We go back to school to meet with him.  Principle gives us a screen grab of the facebook page.  Principle 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.  Principle 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 principle on level of exposure of this hate page.  Inform principle that we are removing son once again for his own protection.  Principle 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 principle in the afternoon.  Principle 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, free from racial abuse, which he deserves and wants.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.For more information, contact: 016453096

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