Katie was, by her own admission, every parent’s worst nightmare. A rebel without a cause, she was skipping school, hanging around with a bad crowd and heading for trouble. Most kids go through this and come out unscathed, but Katie took it to another level, accidentally burning down her school and being sent to prison. But, a few years on, Katie is able to look back and realise prison was the best thing that ever happened to her as it helped her change her ways. A great story for worried mums of naughty teens.
By the turn of adolescence, most teenagers are pushing the boundaries and testing their parent’s patience. For Sarah and Katie, their relationship was pushed to the limit as Katie took teenage rebellion one step too far. Katie, now 23, looks back over her naughty years…
Looking back towards school from the top of the hill, I gasped in horror. Sirens wailed and blue lights flashed as fire engines sped towards the burning building. I just couldn’t believe how quickly the fire had got out of hand. Watching my school burn down, I knew in the pit of my stomach that I was going to be in big trouble.
I snuck home without Mum knowing and tried to go to sleep. I thought maybe if I hid in my room the problem would go away. But I couldn’t sleep. I lay there thinking that I only had one option – I had to face the music.
I was about 13 years old when the local naughty kids accepted me into their gang. I so desperately wanted to be like them – I thought they were cool. I soon lost interest in school and sport. My only concern was trying to impress my new mates.
I was lippy, answered back to Mum in front of my friends. Then I started playing truant. Mum would drive me to school, I’d go in one gate and out another. Mum tried to tell me it would be her who went to prison but I didn’t care.
On the day of the fire at my school, my life was about to change forever.
I’d met up with my mates in the school grounds. We were all drinking cider. We’d snuck into the maths block and in a moment of anarchy, we’d thrown all the chairs around and torn up books, scattering them all over the place.
Later on, we sat in a circle outside one of the windows, rolling up balls of paper and lighting them. We were tossing the little fire balls into the window. I honestly don’t think any of us thought through what might have happened next.
Within minutes, a fire began to spread.
Someone shouted ‘fire!’ and I looked up, seeing smoke sneak out of the window. It wasn’t that ferocious but as soon as we realised we’d started a fire, everyone ran off. I ran to a friend’s house nearby and filled up a jar with water, thinking I’d put it out. But when I got back, the fire had engulfed the room – my little jar of water wasn’t going to do anything now.
I felt absolutely terrible. I’d burnt down my school!
So I got up early the next morning and confessed all to mum. Mum wanted to go straight to the police station but I wanted to see the fire damage first. So I walked over to the school.
There, fire engines were still tackling the last of the blaze. There was nothing left of the building. Smoke was still snaking up into the sky. Two CID officers approached me, confirmed my identity and arrested me.
I explained that I was one of many who had thrown the lit paper into the building and there was no way of knowing which piece started the fire, but that I accepted I was definitely as responsible as the next person. But no one else admitted it. I realised then these friends of mine weren’t real friends – everyone pointed the finger at me and let me take the blame.
Along with one other minor – the boy who owned the lighter, I faced time in a Young Offender’s Institute. I got one year for association with arson.
Mum was allowed five minutes with me after sentencing, before they led me away. She was distraught. I’ll never forget the look in her eyes – I’d have done anything not to be the reason she looked so heartbroken.
I spent five months in Rainsbrook Young Offender’s Institute.
While in the institution, I continued my GCSE studies. I’d been expelled, obviously, but managed to get onto some courses at a local college and did coursework while I was inside.
I’d had plenty of time to think about who I was and who I wanted to be. I knew the rebel had died in that fire – I had to show Mum I was a changed person.
I knew I wasn’t going to associate myself with my old friends. I went to college then got a job in sales. Slowly, I met new people and my confidence began to grow.
Now, I’m a sales executive.
My rebellious years are behind me – and although it took several thousand pounds worth of damage to my school for my ways to change, I am determined to prove myself.
I’ll always feel guilty for what I put Mum through. But she knows the old me and the new me are two different people.