Matthew Lough, a 14-year-old student at Carrickfergus College with Asperger syndrome, says he has suffered anti-Semitic abuse and was attacked physically following a History class on the Holocaust.
According to Matthew’s mother, Sharon Lough, told the Guardian that the boy revealed during the class that his maternal great-great-grandmother was Jewish. She says a group of bullies began a campaign against him.
“It started last year with the swastikas drawn on his books, he was called ‘Jew boy’ and one fellow pupil even told Matthew: ‘It’s a pity that the gas chambers were not still open so we could deal with you.’ This was before the physical assault,” Sharon Lough said.
Carrickfergus College is a secondary school on the outskirts of the town of Carrickfergus, Northern Ireland.
The harassment campaign against Matthew continued through the current school year, up until Easter.
“Because Matthew had reported the verbal abuse and the bullying, one boy took exception to this and during an attack on my son he kicked him in the head. Matthew later came home and started to complain of headaches. By this stage there was the lump the size of an egg on his head and my husband got very worried. When we eventually got Matthew checked out in A&E we were told that he had concussion from the kick.”
Matthew told the BBC that 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. 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 said she the name-calling had continued, despite the suspension of two students.
“We encourage Matthew to live, as much as he can. Aspergers does not change who he has ever been,” she told the BBC. “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.”
According to the Guardian, anti-Semitism is a minor problem compared with other hate crimes in Northern Ireland. Attacks there have been mostly directed at immigrant workers at Filipino and Chinese families, and the Roma. The latter were driven from their homes by attackers in south Belfast three years ago.