Northern Ireland

Anti-semitic attack on Carrickfergus College schoolboy

Sharon Lough
Image caption Sharon Lough said she was proud of her son for standing up to bullies

Police are investigating a report that a 14-year-old boy with Asperger syndrome was attacked by school bullies because of his Jewish heritage.

Matthew Lough said he has been subjected to physical attacks and anti-semitic abuse at Carrickfergus College in County Antrim.

The PSNI has confirmed they are investigating an assault which took place on 14 March.

Carrickfergus College was not available for comment.

The schoolboy said the abuse began shortly after he revealed that his great-grandmother was Jewish during a lesson about the Holocaust.

He said he was later "punched in the head and thrown to the ground" during a PE exercise outside the school grounds.

Suspensions

Matthew also said the bullies had attached swastikas to his school bag and called him anti-semitic names.

"It kind of annoyed me and upset me but the real truck was when I was attacked in the woods during an orienteering exercise in PE," he said.

"The guy was suspended for five days.

Image caption The NEELB said Carrickfergus College had followed board regulations

"This year, it was a guy who was singing a song about how Hitler had gassed 6.5 million Jews, all happy and do-lallies."

His mother, Sharon Lough, said the school had responded to their complaints and had taken action through suspensions and detentions.

But she said she was still concerned about her son because the name-calling had continued despite the suspension of two pupils.

"We encourage Matthew to live, as much as he can. Asperger's does not change who he has ever been," she said.

"We don't want him to be considered as a special case. He is a very intelligent child and very loving and very caring about people around him.

'React to bullying'

"Even though he has been bullied over the years, that wouldn't stop him from standing up for another pupil and that's the kind of child he is and we are so proud of him for that."

She said the headmaster was quick to react to the bullying.

"The lad who was responsible for the ganging-up was suspended," she added.

"Matthew didn't have any injuries from that and the other lads involved with the swastikas were put in detention over a period and it seemed to die down.

"We were very pleased with the school and the fact that they were so responsive.

"We have always been very happy with the school. We are a bit concerned at the minute because there are other lads who are still continuing with name-calling.

"He has been very unsettled at night-time, having nightmares.

"I would never, ever tell my children not to mention their heritage, because they are so proud of it. I would never deny my Jewish heritage, never."

In a statement the North Eastern Education and Library Board (NEELB) said it had been assured by the school that they had fully and properly followed board regulations for regarding the suspension of pupils.

The board said the school had also acted within its own anti-bullying policy.