[Editor’s note: This story discusses suicide. If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).]
A United Kingdom mother whose son was severely bullied is detailing the cruelty he faced that eventually led him to attempt suicide.
Tyler Hills, 46, claims her son, Caleb, 10, was bullied for roughly two years while attending the Orchard School in Canterbury, Kent. Caleb, who is of a mixed ethnic background, was largely bullied over race, Hills said.
Caleb, a normally “lovely, bubbly [and] talkative” boy, slowly became more somber over the past couple of years and expressed hesitation to go to school, his mother said.
Last summer, the 10-year-old, who also suffers from learning disabilities, reached a breaking point: Hills says Caleb attempted to hang himself.
“I found him in his bedroom. I felt sick to the pit of my stomach and helpless,” she told South West News Service (SWNS), a British news agency.
“He said, ‘They keep calling me mean things, they’re not nice to me, I keep telling the teachers but they’re not listening,’” she recalled.
Caleb also told his mother that some of his fellow classmates called him derogatory terms, reportedly using the n-word.
“My gut dropped. He asked, ‘What does it mean?’”
“I thought, ‘How dare you allow my child to be treated like that?’ I’ve got to sit here and explain to him what this means. He’s a baby — I shouldn’t have to be going through all this, not at this age.”
“It made me angry and upset because I know what the n-word actually means,” Caleb told SWNS. “I didn’t want to go to school because they harassed me all day.”
Hills contacted the school, and the students who used the word reportedly apologized to Caleb. But not long after, the bullying resumed.
“I didn’t want to go to school because they harassed me all day.”
Following Caleb’s suicide attempt, Hills withdrew her son from the school. Caleb was just one of a handful of students at the school of a mixed ethnic background, according to SWNS, citing school records.
In a statement, a spokesperson for the Orchard School, Annabel Lilley, said: “School staff, governors, the local authority and I worked extensively with Caleb’s mother to try to bring about a solution that Ms. Hills would be satisfied with and that would enable him to remain here.”
“Caleb was well-liked and was doing well and we are sorry he is no longer a part of our school community,” she added.
Caleb is not yet enrolled in another school. The Kent County Council, of which the Orchard School is a part of, per SWNS, has reportedly offered to pay for Caleb to attend a different school.
“Having him out of school means I am looking after him 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” Hills said. “I love my child dearly, but I need a break and he needs an education.”
According to stopbullying.gov, an official website of the U.S. government, children who are “perceived as different from their peers” are more at risk for bullying.
“Between one in four and one in three U.S. students say they have been bullied at school,” it continues, noting most instances of bullying occurs during a child’s middle school years.