Page last updated at 15:35 GMT, Tuesday, 22 September 2009 16:35 UK

Catholics 'intimidated' at school

Lisneal College
15 pupils from St Cecilia's College were visiting Lisneal College

A Catholic schoolgirl has told how she and other pupils were subjected to sectarian intimidation at a state secondary school in Londonderry.

Lisneal College has now disciplined pupils for harassing visiting students from St Cecilia's College.

She said they were verbally abused, and had stones and bottles thrown at their taxi.

In a joint statement the schools said they would not allow "small pockets of misguided young people" to ruin it.

Fifteen pupils from St Cecilia attend classes at Lisneal as part of a cross-community education programme.

The Catholic pupil said she was part of a group of four who went to history classes at Lisneal.

"We were all verbally abused, and we reported it.

"The boy that did it was caught on cameras and he was made to apologise in front of us.

"Then when we were going home in a taxi, we were going past MacDonalds, and the boy that verbally abused us threw stones and bottles at the taxi," she said.

In the statement the colleges also promised to try to reduce tensions and fears following recent incidents.

"Our first priority is always the safety and protection of our young people and we can assure all students and their parents that this is being monitored on a daily basis," the statement continued.

Niall McAteer, a governor at St Cecilia's College, said there could be elements of sectarianism involved.

"You face that problem, you don't ignore it and you try to tackle it.

"There is no point in blanket condemnation but we need to face this head on."

The father of one of the girls said his daughter was called names and had stones thrown at the taxi she was travelling in.

"She was walking on her way to the classroom and was called scum and a fenian."

He said he believed tensions were heightened by a letter handed out at Lisneal on the controversy surrounding the name-change of the city.

"I thought schools had a duty to care about people and to leave the political stuff out of it.

"I don't know if the letter caused it or if there is an underlying problem with sectarianism and Lisneal."

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