A girl has been pulled out of school by her horrified parents after suffering at the hands of bullies for more than two years.
Erica Smith-Wilkinson, 11, says she was tormented by her classmates at Unity Academy at Warbreck Hill Road, Blackpool, because of a hip problem which causes her right foot to turn inwards.
Erica said that the bullying became so bad that she ‘wanted to die’.
Today, her headteacher said despite every effort being made to deal with the bullying, it was “very sad” previous problems had returned and escalated outside of school.
Erica’s dad Martin Wilkinson, 48, said: “When my daughter told me she wished she could die, it just broke my heart.
“It all started because of her hip problem when she started the school in Year Five and other children started calling her names. I went up to the school and complained and they promised to sort it out. It quietened down for a while but then it started again. Since then it has only got worse.
“The last time there were about 20 pupils yelling at her in the play-ground, pulling her hair and wanting a fight.
“Her older brother, who is in Year 10, had to intervene and pull her out.
“I told the school about it and they got all the kids together and told them off, but it didn’t seem to do much good.
“There were mornings when I had to carry her to the car crying because she was just terrified of going to school.
“Erica is miserable. She used to be a really happy, outgoing girl who would join in anything but now she just keeps herself to herself. She doesn’t want to talk to other children because she’s scared they’re going to bully her.”
Erica’s mum Penny, 39, added: “We have been followed out of the school by a group of girls swearing and hurling abuse at us, calling Erica a ‘bitch’ and shouting ‘what are you going to do about it?’.
“I was shocked. I realised just how bad it was.”
The couple, who have two other children attending Unity Academy, said they decided to finally pull Erica out of the school at the end of October after they found her ‘cowering’ in a local shop surrounded by bullies, some of whom were as old as 15.
Mr Wilkinson said: “She went in and didn’t come out. We went in after her and found a bunch of kids around her and she was cowering in a corner.”
Erica said: “I’ve had Year Seven, Eight and Nine pupils picking on me. They think they can be really bad to me because they know they can get away with it. I don’t want to go to any more schools now because I feel like I don’t fit in.
“I hate the school so much I just wanted to die.”
Mr Wilkinson said: “She’s had the problem with her hip since she was born. We’ve been told by our doctors that she could have an operation to correct it when she’s older.”
Now her parents have spoken out in anger against staff at Unity Academy, who they believe failed to adequately protect their daughter from the bullies.
The school has provided work for her to do at home since the end of October.
But Mr Wilkinson said: “I have no words I could say to express my disappointment with the school.
“A week or two of bullying is normal, but this has gone on too long. It’s just not right.
“Even our doctor told us to pull Erica out of the school for her own health.
“Nothing has happened to the bullies who made my daughter’s life a misery. They are still enjoying their time at school while Erica feels trapped doing her work at home.”
Mrs Wilkinson, who lives in St Annes, added: “We won an appeal to get her into Lytham High and she will be starting there after Christmas.”
Chris Lickiss, Principal of Unity Academy said: “We are extremely disappointed that Erica’s parents have chosen to take her out of Unity Academy.
“Erica has had lots of support and interventions from staff during periods where she and her colleagues have fallen out of friendships with each other.
“Most of these emotional issues have been resolved speedily and rebuilt through sitting down in discussion with parents and agreeing strategies for moving on together.
“It is most unfortunate and very sad that some previously resolved situations have been rekindled and escalated outside of Unity Academy.”