Bullied For Being Autistic? 12-Year-Old Student Hangs Himself
12-year-old Michael Raven was found hanged in his bedroom on Monday at his home in Burnley, Lancashire, in the UK. The cause of Michael’s death has yet to be confirmed but police are not treating his death as suspicious. Michael was a student at St. Wilfrid’s Church of England Academy and, following his tragic death, Facebook tributes have emerged that claim that he was teased and bullied by girls because he was autistic.
One woman, who said her daughter had been bullied at the school, said: ‘She told me Michael was being picked on by a group of girls from year 8. It sounds like the teased him about his autism’, according to The Sun.
Megan Brandon said: ‘Bullies of St.Wilfrids C.O.E should feel ashamed 13years old 2nd year and taken his own life R.I.P Michael Raven never forgotten loved always.
The school’s principal, David Whyte, said that “the school was not made aware of any bullying concerns in relation to Michael.” He described Michael as “an avid reader” who “enjoyed playing chess and took part in every single house activity here at school”; Michael was indeed “doing really well in school.” Police have also said that there was “no indication at this stage ” that bullying was a factor, but that an investigation is continuing.
Besides the comments on Facebook, comments left on a Lancashire Telegraph article mention both bullying and autism in regard to Michael:
Gemvsshan says… (6:05pm Tue 29 Nov 11). I went to his school, he was in all my classes. I really understood what he was going through, since I myself have been bullied like that aswell. Everybody who’s ever said anything mean to him have been crying their eyes out today, they really have learnt a lesson. We’ve talked to each other before and he was a really nice, bright kid. He was always trying to smile. I just wish I talked to him about all his bullies before any of this happened. I also feel for all his family, because even my family was affected when I was being bullied, including stress and me being emotional all the time. But atleast nobody can harm him anymore.. RIP Michael! We will all miss you! xx
Gemvsshan says… (6:20pm Tue 29 Nov 11): … I go to his school. He told the head and the bullies got told off. But it doesn’t mean they would stop! What else can the school do? All the bullies were taken as far away from Michael as possible. I feel really sorry for Michael, since he got things thrown at him in sertain classes where the teacher couldn’t controll them all! I hope the bullies have atleast learnt from their actions and never do anything like it again. xx
mown43 says… (7:49pm Tue 29 Nov 11): This is the only comment I’m going to make ………. I know Michael and cried not just for him but also for his family…….I work at the ARC club…. Autism Resource Centre……www.actionasd.org.uk He was a lovely boy AND he WILL be sorely missed…
For students on the autism spectrum, there is no question that bullying is a huge concern. Social interactions can be very challenging for autistic individuals and all the more so for children who, as Michael was, are 12 years old — are entering adolescence and the teenage years. Students who are bullied are very likely not to come forward and inform school authorities, their parents and others, for a whole host of reasons including shame and the fear that nobody will believe them. New Jersey (where I live) has passed a very stringent anti-bullying law, in which all members of a school community are required to report instances incidents of bullying, even those that happen outside of school and online.
Some commenters have said that the mention of bullying and the criticism of St. Wilfrid’s is unwarranted. But one commenter who identified himself as a former St. Wilfrid’s student says that he has a special needs son and that the school did not seem an appropriate setting for a child with such needs:
Blarty says… (7:43pm Tue 29 Nov 11): My son has behavioural problems and is under Special Eucational [sic] Needs, and when I took him round to see the schools when he was in year 6, I was willing to give St Wilfrid’s a chance, more so than my wife was willing to give them, I might add, and to say I was underwhelmed with the quality of SEN support is an understatement.
Another parent of a child with disabilities commented:
rugbythighs says… (8:49pm Tue 29 Nov 11): a piece of news like this always makes my blood run cold, so tragic to think one so young felt such pain to end life. my heartfelt thoughts go to his family at this very sad time. reading through the comments i note michael was autistic. my son has aspergers, a form of autism and a lot of his time at wilfrids is unfortunately not remembered fondly. if there is any blame to apportion i would say it is ultimately the local authority. when my son attended the school there was a special needs support department though obviously not all problems were dealt with, i am told it doesn’t exist now. the special needs children in this region and, i’m sure, others are being dreadfully shortchanged.
Michael’s parents are, very understandably, in shock and “too ‘distraught’ and upset to speak or release a tribute to Michael yet.
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