A ‘bullied’ schoolboy with special needs was forced to write down why he thought his classmates didn’t like him – only to have it pinned on the wall for a year.
Caein Powell, 11, told his parents Damian and Lindy he was being ‘picked on’ at school, so they told his teachers they were worried about him.
But the couple, of Derby, were horrified when he came home with a cartoon drawing of himself with the caption: ‘How can I get the other children to like me?’.
Around the picture were speech bubbles with suggestions he claims his fellow pupils had given him in a group discussion, including: ‘Stop annoying us’, ‘stop shouting’ and ‘He needs to not shout at you.’
This came just four months after Caien suffered the loss of his grandmother after a stretch in intensive care.
Commenting on how upset he was, one of the suggestions said: ‘Be happy not sad’.
When Mr Lightoller and Ms Powell complained to Allenton Community Primary School in Derby but the headteacher defended the picture as ‘restorative justice’.
Caein Powell, 11, told his parents Damian and Lindy he was being ‘picked on’ at school, but they had no idea he had been forced to draw a picture of himself with the ‘reasons why his classmates don’t like him’ (pictured)
Caien has traits of autism as a result of a condition called oppositional defiant disorder, which his father claims can make him appear ‘noisy’ and boisterous to other people.
The couple, who have two other children, claim the picture of their son, which was drawn by a teacher, has been on his classroom wall since November 2018.
They said: ‘I’m upset and angry. I’m trying to figure out how best to support Caien but with him not really understanding how horrific this is I don’t want to raise his awareness of it too much as well.
‘I’m disgusted at the behaviour of the school and heartbroken about some of the things written.
‘The person who carried it out is a behaviour mentor so should be very well trained on encouraging positive behaviour and not negatives.
‘Caien said a few children were picking on him saying he was too loud and too noisy and never seemed happy.
‘We had a chat with the school at the time and they said they would look into it but I guess this was the result of the school looking into it, unfortunately.
‘He’s had some fall outs with children and felt he was being picked on. He’d gone to the teacher and said, ‘these children are picking on me’.
‘They sat him down with these children to find out what has been going on.
Parents Lindy Powell and Damian Lightoller (pictured) complained to Allenton Community Primary School in Derby but the headteacher defended the picture as ‘restorative justice’
‘The teacher has drawn the picture and got the other children to say what they don’t like about him so that Caien should try and overcome these and not say to these children if he wants them to like him.
‘It’s essentially telling someone to change because they’re being bullied.
‘It had been on the school wall for a year and they were having a clearout ready for the end of the school year.
‘My son is leaving the school at the end of next week and they asked Caien if he wanted to take it home. He doesn’t quite realise how negative it is.
‘I’ve got a teacher friend who said that if a child is struggling, they do this and name positive things about the child and then they try and talk to the child to work on those positive things.
‘However it appears to have been done in the reverse with my son.’
Caien had watched his grandmother’s illness worsen in an intensive care ward before she died, and his father was horrified to find he had been told to ‘control his emotions’.
Mr Lightoller, who works in C-commerce, said: ‘It was done just four months after his grandmother passed away so he was going through a very difficult time in his life as well.
‘His grandmother had been in intensive care for five weeks with multiple organ failure and Caien had been to see her a couple of times, which is obviously not an easy thing for a 10-year-old to go through.
Pictured: Caien with his father Damian Lightoller, from Derby
‘We had made the decision with hospital staff that it would be more beneficial for Caien to see her while she was still alive than to just wonder where she had gone.
‘He has every right to be sad, if he’s sad. A child shouldn’t be told to control their emotions.
‘All the comments trigger different emotions from me but telling him to ‘be happy, not sad’ is the most heartbreaking. Why should he have to stop being sad? The other things are hurtful too.’
The couple approached the school to complain about the drawing but were shocked when headteacher John Fordham defended the drawing.
Mr Lightoller said: ‘I spoke to the teacher and headteacher about this piece of work and they got quite defensive about it, refusing to accept that it was a negative thing and saying it was done as a ‘restorative justice’ piece.
‘Obviously we expressed that it doesn’t matter what lead up to this, it was still a completely unacceptable thing.
‘I did try to explain I wasn’t undoing any of the good work they had done with Caien, but that doesn’t excuse this piece of disgusting, negative work.
‘Some of the things mentioned on it are things he has raised as a concern over the last year and we’ve never understood where it has been coming from.
The picture was allegedly drawn by a teacher and has speech bubbles with his classmates’ saying why they don’t like him and how Caien can change that
‘We’ve obviously tried to give him positive praise, reinforcement and encouragement without knowing where these negative thoughts were coming from.
‘From what he’s said I think these things have been said to him in school too.
‘We had always had a positive experience with the headteacher in the past and he’s always been quite responsive and helpful.
‘We initially thought he had no idea about this. We were correct, he didn’t – but he also didn’t think it was a negative thing at the same time.
‘We were expecting him to be quite horrified. He was supportive of the member of staff that had carried it out.
‘If I had had an apology from him and he had said sorry, I would have figured they were taking responsibility.
‘But if they’re not and don’t see it as a negative thing, what’s to stop them from not doing it the next time a child comes in and says, ‘I’m being bullied I need some help’?’
Allenton Community Primary School and Transform Trust, who are involved in the running of the school, have been approached for comment.