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Last Updated: Tuesday, 9 November, 2004, 06:48 GMT
Bullying law call after girl dies
Mike and Yvonne Rhodes at Cefn Saeson school
Mike and Yvonne Rhodes are demanding a change in the law
The parents of a 13-year-old girl who died after taking an overdose of tablets have called for a law to make schools record bullying allegations.

Laura Rhodes, from Neath, south Wales, died in September after an apparent suicide pact with a friend.

Her parents, Yvonne and Mike Rhodes, said Laura was bullied at Cefn Saeson Comprehensive school, in Neath.

School headteacher Alun Griffiths has said "a range of strategies" was used to tackle the bullying claims.

Mr and Mrs Rhodes claim Cefn Saeson failed to take the bullying claims seriously enough and have called for schools to be required to record how problems are dealt with.

Mrs Rhodes told BBC Wales' Week In Week Out programme her daughter became increasingly isolated and withdrawn after joining Cefn Saeson.

Laura Rhodes
Laura Rhodes died in September

"She felt she didn't have any control over what was happening to her, and she wanted us to stop the bullying," said Mrs Rhodes.

"We were asking for it to be stopped, but we weren't getting anywhere.

"I want everyone to know that Laura was a bullied child, - she wasn't mentally ill, she wasn't anything other than a bullied child."

School head Mr Griffiths said Laura last attended the school 13 months before her death, and that the school had "used a whole range of strategies to address her allegations of bullying".

Mr Griffiths and Neath Port Talbot education authority declined to be interviewed for the Week In Week Out programme.

Laura was referred to Bryncoch pupil referraluUnit after 10 months at Cefn Saeson but, at the time of her death, discussions were taking place about a possible return to the school.

In a letter released after her death, Laura wrote of being verbally and physically abused over her weight and speculation about her sexuality.

If a child complains that they are being bullied, it's vital that the school take it seriously, listen to it, and act on it
Peter Clarke, Children's Commissioner for Wales

Shortly before Laura died, she and friend Rebecca Ling, 14, had sparked a police hunt after going missing, before they were found in Bath.

After returning to Neath, Laura died after taking an overdose of tablets, but Rebecca survived and is still recovering.

South Wales Police have carried out an investigation, and said there were no suspicious circumstances surrounding Laura's death.

An inquest is expected to be held in the New Year.

Children's Commissioner for Wales Peter Clarke is calling on the Welsh Assembly Government to insist that every school has effective anti-bullying strategies in place.

"If a child complains that they are being bullied, it's vital that the school take it seriously, listen to it, and act on it," he said.

"Otherwise what will happen is that children won't say it anymore, they won't report it because they will lose confidence, and that will add to the suffering they are already going through as a consequence of the bullying."

After Laura's death, the student council of Cefn Saeson Comprehensive School issued a statement denying the school had a bullying problem.

Week In Week Out will be on Tuesday at 2235 GMT on BBC1 Wales.

Pupils deny school bullying claim
30 Sep 04 |  South West Wales

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