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Last Updated: Thursday, 30 September, 2004, 08:29 GMT 09:29 UK
Pupils deny school bullying claim
Pupil Aradhana Gupta, 15, holds the letter with fellow pupils
Pupils at the former school of a teenager who apparently committed suicide have spoken out against claims there is a bullying problem.

The student council of Cefn Saeson Comprehensive School in Neath issued a joint statement following the death of 13-year-old Laura Rhodes.

Pupils said the image of the school that has been created since Laura's death was "false and unjust".

But Laura's parents have dismissed the students' claim.

They have said nothing would improve until the authorities admitted that a bullying problem existed.

Laura, from Neath, south Wales, died in an apparent suicide pact with 14-year-old Rebecca Ling, a friend from Birmingham whom she had met through the internet.

She was found at her home in Cimla, Neath, by her parents on 6 September.

Luke Curran
Luke Curran said his school had a 'wonderful atmosphere'

The girls had only just been found at a hotel in Bath, after they had sparked a nationwide police hunt by running away together.

Both girls were taken to Morriston Hospital, Swansea, but Laura could not be saved.

Laura's parents have since told of how she was bullied at Cefn Saeson school in Neath because she was overweight.

Before taking a drugs overdose, she wrote a poignant letter saying how unhappy she was at being bullied.

But student Luke Curran said he did not recognise the school being described in the media.

He told BBC Wales: "It's a wonderful atmosphere just walking into school every morning.

"Everybody's so friendly there.

"The one we have been hearing about in the media is like a different school."

'Special atmosphere'

In a statement released on Wednesday, the school's student council said it sought to "set the record straight".

It reads: "An image has been created of our school in the past few weeks - it is one we do not recognise.

"We hope to ease the frustration of many of our fellow pupils at the false and unjust impressions created by the media.

"There is a brilliant relationship between teachers and pupils.

Laura Rhodes
Laura wrote a letter saying she was bullied about being overweight

"There is a special atmosphere within this school which visitors and newcomers always comment upon favourably."

The statement says that some problems arise between pupils "like in all schools".

"What we are here to tell you is that pupils in our school are always encouraged to speak to someone about it, whether it be another pupil or a member of staff."

It adds that many pupils have been trained to deal with other pupils' problems, and that parents should sent their child to the school "with every confidence".

A spokesman for Cefn Saeson insisted the school took bullying very seriously. An inquiry into Laura's situation has been launched by Neath Port Talbot Council.

Speaking after Laura's funeral, her parents said that, although they had brought the bullying to the school's attention, not enough was done to help.

The assembly's education minister, Jane Davidson, said she would be writing to all schools to find out how they had responded to the publication of the assembly's strategy on bullying a year ago.

"What's terribly important is that children themselves feel they have somewhere to go,someone to talk to.

"We spell that out very clearly in the guidance.

"We must make sure parents feel they can have recourses to proper treatment and they can go to governing bodies and take their concerns there," she said.

"The whole school policy means that the staff know what to do, the children are clear and parents know where they can go as well.


SEE ALSO:
'Suicide pact' girl's tragic letter
22 Sep 04  |  South West Wales
'Suicide' survivor was expelled
13 Sep 04  |  South West Wales
Laura wrote 'bullying' letter
11 Sep 04  |  South West Wales


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