Shy Keenan
Someone Being Bullied
Female | Colchester, England   United Kingdom
'Bullying should be a criminal offence'
Bullying Type: Physical / Emotional
Posted By: 5Hearts
6/21/13 11:32 AM
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Shy Keenan is a very determined woman. Despite being repeatedly raped by her stepfather from the age of four, and sold to gangs of other paedophiles for just £15, she fought back from the brink of death and despair to campaign on behalf of victims of child abuse.

Now, she's been forced to summon all her emotional strength once again after her teenage son Ayden Olsen took his own life earlier this year. Heartbroken that she couldn't stop the bullies she believes drove him to his death, she's once again turned to campaigning, calling for a change of law to make bullying a specific offence.

Ms Keenan has spoken to tonight's Channel 4 News about her son, and what she wants the politicians to do.

Ayden was just 14 when he killed himself in March this year. His mother describes him as a beautiful boy, funny, clever and with a particular talent for languages – a skill he used to good effect to sign for his deaf twin brother ("French, Japanese and swearing", Ms Keenan recalls).

You might have thought he had everything going for him. But his life started to unravel when he was bullied at Philip Morant school in Colchester, Essex. Ayden's mother accuses the school of failing to get on top of the problem. They asked him to fill in "orange cards" with the names of the bullies, but it had no effect.

Things started to escalate out of control when Ayden suggested he might be gay, and that he liked another boy. "They called him dirty, Asian, gay. He came home and asked if he could have surgery to change his eyes. He started plucking his eyebrows to stop himself looking so Asian. But he was proud of being part-Japanese. He was gorgeous," Ms Keenan tells us.

There is now a police investigation and an inquest will be held.

In the mean time, Ms Keenan is campaigning for "Ayden's law". Working closely with her friend and fellow campaigner Sara Payne and the charity BeatBullying, they want to make bullying a criminal offence.

BeatBullying says 44 per cent of child suicides are related to bullying, and that one in three children have been a victim of it.

Ms Keenan points out that if Ayden had been called "dirty, Asian, gay" outside the school gates it would have been a hate crime. Inside the school it's not.

All schools do have to have an anti-bullying policy and Ofsted reports take this into account. That in itself may in fact present a perverse disincentive, discouraging schools from reporting a bullying problem for fear of denting their ratings.

Ayden's school does have an anti-bullying policy as required, but we don't know how they dealt with his case because they've repeatedly refused requests for an interview. Through a lawyer, the school told Channel 4 News tonight: "The events earlier this year came as a great shock to the school, its teachers and pupils and our thoughts and condolences have always been with the family." Their PR representatives later told us: "As the tragic loss of Ayden Olsen remains the subject of an ongoing police investigation, it's obviously difficult for us to comment in any great detail at this stage."

Ms Keenan's campaign though appears to be bearing fruit already.

The Tory MP Tracey Crouch is tabling an amendment to the anti-social behaviour bill currently going through parliament to make bullying a specific offence. It won't be all that Ms Keenan wants, as it would be a civil offence rather than a criminal one. Ms Crouch told me she was concerned about criminalising children at such a young age.

But if the amendment is carried it would mean that a new anti-social behaviour injunction would cover bullying too – enabling schools and other authorities to intervene swiftly and decisively. If the culprits broke that injunction, they would then face a criminal behaviour order.

Ms Crouch said tonight: "It's illegal to bully someone in the workplace. Why do we not take the same approach to youngsters who are more emotionally vulnerable than adults? There's a loophole and we have a duty as politicians to protect the most vulnerable members of society. This bill is as good an opportunity as any."

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Posted By: AllIDoIsThink2 | 6/24/13 11:22 AM
I'm not sure if all types of bullying can be considered illegal, but in some instances... for sure. I feel bad for
the mother, what a hard life she's had - hoping she has success in what she is trying to accomplish.
Story Details

Name: Shy Keenan
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Country: United Kingdom
Location: Colchester, England
Gender: Female
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