Jacob Belsham is an 18-year-old student who has already experienced unimaginable loss — the death of his father. But his school’s reaction to how Belsham has handled the loss has been appalling.
In 2016, Belsham, who has Asperger’s, took his first-year exams while his father was still alive but in hospice care due to advanced esophageal cancer. Then his father sadly passed away in May of that year.
Belsham’s grades were low, as he was understandably preoccupied with what was going on at home. So he transferred to Sandbach High for the 2017-18 school year to retake his exams.
The school year was rough. He had some issues with being tardy and also missed classes occasionally. Belsham was having nightmares and struggling with “another issue” at the same time. Because of overwhelming stress levels, he would get physically ill in the mornings and throw up. But he still went to school because he didn’t want to get in more trouble for missing even more school.
But his situation at the school was about to get exponentially worse. And it started with Belsham opening up to a staff member about his mental state, hoping for some support.
Belsham told her that he was having nightmares, and that it was a “physical challenge to just get up and face the day.”
Instead of support, he was met with skepticism and impassivity.
According to Belsham, the female staff member said he was “hiding behind mental health as an excuse to pick and choose when I want to come in to college.” And when he told her about throwing up in the mornings because he felt so stressed, she said, “Man up because attendance is more important.”
On May 16, 2018, two days before the first anniversary of his father’s death, Belsham left school early. He says that a teacher had told him to go home to “cool off.”
He then took to social media to post about how mental health was treated at the school.
He received lots of comments and reactions to the post, especially in light of the fact that a female student had committed suicide the year before.
The school quickly found out about his post and Belsham was temporarily suspended for 7 days, pending an investigation into his “ill-informed online trolling.” He was also told to not post anything else online until the issue was resolved.
Weeks later it was “resolved” — by permanently expelling Belsham.
Belsham has since moved to another school. But he went to England’s Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) about his experience at Sandbach, and they were concerned. The school had ignored proper procedure by not telling him he had a right to an independent review when they expelled him.
Because of this, Belsham is hoping that a review hearing on November 27th will result in having the exclusion removed from his education records. He maintains that “the school has behaved in a completely over the top, insensitive and heavy-handed manner.”
As the case is ongoing, the school was unable to comment.Whizzco