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It takes a lot to shock me these days. Perhaps working in the field that I do has innoculated me against the shock and disgust many others would react with, if they heard the horrors that I regularly encounter when talking to victims of hate crime. And yet, shocked, disgusted, and distressed is exactly how I felt while watching Panorama’s undercover report of the Life School, Wirral this past Monday night.

Actually, I would go even further. I felt physically sick, sick to my stomach as I witnessed ableism through bullying, aggression, horrendous verbal abuse, and the utter dehumanisation of vulnerable children who were supposed to be in the care of SEN professionals.

But these were not professionals, they were ego-driven thugs preying on the vulnerable to enable their sickening power trips. From a money-hungry owner, to a supposed mental health wellbeing coach who routinely verbally abused pupils using ableist and homophobic slurs, a teacher drawing genitals on a child’s face which was clearly witnessed by the head of the school and ignored, and the head of operations fantasising about drowning one of his pupils, from start to finish it was clear that this atmosphere of active othering, degradation, and abuse had been completely normalised, creating a living hell for the students who attended.

The complete lack of empathy – indeed humanity – endemic within the schools culture, is perhaps best demonstrated by their jaw-dropping response to the airing of the investigation; accusing the reporter of ignoring safeguarding concerns and threatening the BBC with legal action.

Bullies using deflection as a form of defence? Sounds familiar in this day and age doesn’t it? And yet despite our collective inuring to such underhand tactics, this documentary touched a nerve, with viewers taking to social media in their droves to express their outrage and condemnation.

It is a depressing landscape though, when it takes a documentary as extreme as this for people to react. Why do we always have to reach the worst case scenario before public condemnation emerges? Before people finally wake up and understand that something is inherently wrong and needs to be challenged?

Make no mistake, so much of what we saw here was based on hostility and prejudice against those students because of their learning disabilities. The very definition of a hate crime. If you witness what you think might be a hate crime, then please report it. You can make a difference!