‘He was sweet, lovely, kind with a great sense of fairness…he was popular; he had friends, not a sad loner’ That is how Shy Keenan described her son, Ayden Olson.
The heart-wrenching story
Ayden Olson was a wonderful fourteen year old English boy who went to Philip Morant School. He had a normal teenage-hood, until he said he thought he was gay. That resulted into countless attacks of remorseless school bullying. Ayden Olson couldn’t bear with it, he couldn’t take the pain. Out of despair, he was driven to take his own life. Young Ayden Olson was bullied to death.
He is believed to have taken an overdose, which left him lifeless on his bedroom floor in Colchester, Essex, to be found by his mother, Shy Keenan, on a sad March 14thmorning, in an apparent suicide.
The tragedy struck a chord with parents across the UK who, like Shy, could only watch helplessly as their children were tormented. The forty three year old mother is haunted by the memory of her son. “We couldn’t wait for him to grow up – we thought we could pat ourselves on the back, we did good’ – and the discovery of his lifeless body in March that brought all those hopes and joy to an abrupt, hideous end. She has lost 3 stone in as many months, can’t sleep and is going through the motions of normal life. But the one thing keeping her going is her anger at his senseless death and determination that ‘children deserve to go to school and not feel terrorised and petrified.’
Our wonderful 14 year-old son Ayden Olson died on the 14th of March 2013 – his spirit defeated, he was bullied to death at school and driven… out of pain and despair… to take his own life.
“We miss him so much. Our hearts just ache for him and as we try to adjust to a life without him, we have committed to carrying his dreams of bully free schools ahead with Ayden’s Law.” ~Shy Keenan.
What the mother decided to do
She looked at her little boy, Ayden Olson, lying dead on the floor, and thought “they have to listen now”, that bullying can no longer be allowed to happen, because they’re killing kids.
“We want new ways to protect children from all forms of bullying. At the moment it’s not even illegal to bully. We don’t want to criminalise children but the first step is to take bullying seriously.”
Shy, a justice campaigner, has started a joint campaign in her son’s name with the anti-bullying charity she is calling for a summit meeting with Prime Minister David Cameron to discuss her proposals.
Her voice breaking, she said in a video interview, “Their policy doesn’t work – my evidence is my dead son….Children deserve to go to school and not feel terrorised and petrified.”
“For decades we’ve been trying to tackle bullying in schools. But as the deaths of Ayden Olson and many others have shown, the methods used are not working. This proposed law for the first time gives schools a chance to put a stop to bullying. Ayden’s Law will be a fitting tribute to my son’s memory. We have committed to carrying his dreams of bully free schools ahead with Ayden’s Law.”
“I don’t want Ayden’s death to be for nothing.”
So what is Ayden’s Law?
Ayden’s Law is a campaign on behalf of all those young people, their families and any child or young person being bullied today.
A website has been set up in memory of Ayden’s tragic suicide. The Ayden’s Law website went live, calling for a new children’s anti-bullying bill to be passed in UK law and wants to force talks with David Cameron on the issue. The website, aydenslaw.org, contains suggestions of what the anti-bullying bill could include, and methods to increase prevention and support for parents whose children are carrying out bullying.
Aiming at protecting children who become victims of bullying, Ayden’s Law would make bullying and intimidation a criminal offense. Moreover, it aims at increasing community-based bullying prevention, as well as introducing a statutory requirement for the government to publish children and young people’s annual anti-bullying strategy for the UK. Furthermore, Ayden’s Law hopes to support families with children who bully to change their behaviour.
‘We are calling on the Prime Minister to support a new law to protect children who become victims of bullying. The last thing we want is to criminalise children but the adults in charge of safeguarding our children must take charge,’ she says.
Justice for victims: According to the Ayden Law website, and under the proposed law, bullying and intimidation would be a criminal offence for the first time. If a child was found to be acting in a way that could cause physical or mental harm to another person, they could be charged and prosecuted. Sentencing would focus on out-of-court measures.
Community Protection: Under Ayden’s Law, all social workers would be given anti-bullying training as part of their social work qualification. This will give them the skills and confidence they need to work with their community to prevent bullying, provide support for victims of bullying and their families, and work with bullies to address their behaviour.
Government action: A statutory requirement for Government to publish ‘A Children and Young People’s Annual Anti-Bullying Strategy for the UK’ and for the Prime Minister to report progress to Parliament annually.
Family support: Under Ayden’s Law, all families with a child that persistently bullies and intimidates others would have to take part in a compulsory family intervention programme.
The proposed strategy is to include clear roles and responsibilities for government, local government, communities, schools and internet providers, as well as fully-costed measures that enable schools, local authorities and the voluntary and community sector to take forward the strategy. Finally, it shall include indicators to measure improvement and progress over time.
CEO and founder of BeatBullying, Emma-Jane Cross, who worked on shaping the proposals, says, “Ayden’s Law is a campaign on behalf of all the young people who have lost their lives because of bullying, their families, and any child being bullied today. Together we can prevent other children from seeing suicide as their only escape route.”
Please show your support and back the campaign by signing the petition or sharing your story at www.aydenslaw.org.
BeatBullying, The Sun, and families of children like Ayden Olson are calling on the Prime Minister to take action. They want to call a summit with him and relevant ministers to discuss how they can prevent any more tragedies — and the creation of Ayden’s Law, a new children’s anti-bullying bill designed to stop bullying in the UK society, once and for all.
Letter to Prime Minister, David Cameron
YOU will know that when you become a parent, the safety and happiness of your child becomes your top priority. What is hopefully less familiar is the agony of being unable to help your child in the face of remorseless bullying. Our families have been irreversibly altered through the loss of a child whose life was destroyed by bullying. The pain of knowing your child felt so helpless and alone that they saw suicide as their only option is unbearable.
Shy Keenan’s 14-year-old son Ayden Olson took his own life in March with an overdose after vicious bullying at school. Nothing can change what has happened to Shy and our families but we hope to stop more families suffering in the same way. We are urging you to meet with us in a summit to discuss how such tragedies can be prevented through a children’s anti-bullying bill.
Yours sincerely, Shy Keenan, mother of Ayden, 14; Peter and Denise Dimmick, parents of Gemma, 15; Michelle Maddox and Susan Morris, mother and grandmother of Joshua, 15; Kelly Dugmore and Paul Jones, parents of Aaron, nine; Paul and Caroline Vodden, parents of Ben Vodden, 11; Steve and Marie Kirkham, parents of Hannah, 18; Robert and Tracy Mullaney, parents of Tom, 15; Andrew MacBryde, father of Natasha, 15; Sandra Thompson, mother of Thomas,11; Hayley Heffernan and the rest of the family of Megan Gillan, 15; Emma-Jane Cross, CEO and Founder of BeatBullying; Sara Payne, Sun Justice campaigner
What the UK Government is doing about it:
The UK government does realize the gravity of the situation. A spokesman for the Prime Minister made a statement regarding the matter, saying, “Bullying can have a devastating effect on the lives of victims and their families and we are clear that it must not be tolerated. It is important that all children know where they can go for help and are confident that their problems will be dealt with seriously and sensitively.”
“This Government has issued new guidance to ensure schools are clear on their responsibilities in protecting children from bullying and has also given teachers new powers to tackle bullying quickly and effectively. To reinforce this, Ofsted (Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills) now clearly holds schools to account on how well they deal with behaviour and bullying and since January last year, inspectors must consider pupils’ freedom from bullying, harassment and discrimination.
“The Department for Education works with organisations including the Anti-Bullying Alliance and BeatBullying as part of its on-going work to tackle bullying and there are a range of laws in place to protect people from all forms of bullying.”
It may shock you to know that 44 per cent of suicides committed by young people in the UK are directly linked to bullying and intimidation. CEO and founder of BeatBullying, Emma-Jane Cross, says, “Every day thousands of children in this country are bullied. In the classroom, on their way home from school, when they go online. For a growing number of children, ending their lives seems the only way for them to stop the torment.”
It is worth noting that Ayden Olson is the son of Shy Keenan, a prominent child abuse campaigner, Shy Keenan recently appeared in an inquest hearing regarding her demand for suicide websites as it looks like Ayden got the info for his suicide method from one or more of these websites. Ayden took his own life three months after telling his family he was homosexual and after suffering years of verbal and physical abuse by pupils at school who thought he was gay.
His mother earlier said Ayden Olson had “found someone he thought he loved” but it was not reciprocated.