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Last Updated: Tuesday, 7 September, 2004, 11:16 GMT 12:16 UK
'Suicide' girl was bullied - family
Mandy Birt and Jackie Thomas
Laura's relatives read a statement on behalf of her parents
A teenager who died following an apparent suicide pact was forced out of her former school by bullying, say her relatives.

Laura Rhodes, 13, from Neath, south Wales, died after seemingly taking an overdose early on Saturday morning.

Her parents said she was "extensively bullied" and "terrified" at Cefn Saeson comprehensive, Neath.

Chair of governors Peter Rees said the school could not make detailed comments on individuals, but expressed sympathy for Laura's family.

Laura and her best friend Rebecca Ling, 14, from Birmingham, were thought to have made a suicide pact before taking overdoses at Laura's home on Saturday.

The pair - who met via the internet - ran away last Wednesday from Laura's home when Rebecca was due to return home after a holiday but were found and taken back to Neath on Friday night.

Laura Rhodes
Laura was 'terrified' of taunting at her old school, say her parents
Rebecca survived and is in a "comfortable" condition at Morriston Hospital, Swansea.

On Monday, South Wales Police said they did not believe there was any link between bullying and Laura's death.

Laura's parents Yvonne and Michael Rhodes were still too distraught to speak directly, but her cousin Mandy Birt and aunt Jackie Thomas read a statement prepared by them on the steps of their home in Heol Derwen, Cimla, on Tuesday morning.

The family wanted to "put the record straight".

Laura left Cefn Saeson because she was terrified of the remarks and the taunts she endured every day
Yvonne and Michael Rhodes

They said Laura had received a "small amount" of bullying at her primary school, which was resolved, but the problem arose again when she moved to secondary school.

"Laura was bullied extensively at Cefn Saeson school," the statement read.

"We did try to tackle these issues with the relevant authorities but to no avail."

Mr and Mrs Rhodes said Laura had been made to feel she was responsible for the bullying by not ignoring it.

'Isolation'

The family was threatened with prosecution if Laura did not attend school regularly.

She left the school after one year and went to a pupil referral unit at the Bryn-Coch Centre in Neath instead.

"Laura left Cefn Saeson because she was terrified of the remarks and the taunts she endured every day," her parents said.

"Laura made friends through the internet because she was not able to make friends through the normal environment."
There is no room for complacency where bullying is concerned
School governor Peter Rees

"We don't want anyone else to suffer the loneliness and isolation Laura went through."

Mr and Mrs Rhodes added that bullying was not the sole reason for Laura's death but said it was a "contributing factor".

They said she had been considering returning to mainstream education but was not sure if she would be able to "risk a repeat of her previous bullying nightmares".

Cefn Saeson School referred all enquiries about Laura's death to Neath Port Talbot local education authority.

Speaking on behalf of the LEA, Peter Rees, the chair of governors, repeated his opinion that focusing on bullying in Laura's death was simplistic.

"Proper and careful consideration is needed to determine the reasons for this tragedy," he said.

"The local authority and Neath Port Talbot schools take bullying very seriously."

He added schools used a range of initiatives to tackle bullying, include teacher training, peer education, drama, and educational support staff.

"There is no room for complacency where bullying is concerned," he concluded.

"We are constantly developing our shared understanding of this issue through ongoing work with statutory and voluntary agencies."




SEE ALSO:
Missing teenage girls found
03 Sep 04  |  South West Wales


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