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Last Updated: Tuesday, 5 April, 2005, 05:52 GMT 06:52 UK
Legal threat to 'bullying' school
Michael and Yvonne Rhodes
Mr and Mrs Rhodes say the school records are 'hard to believe'
The parents of a teenager who died after taking an overdose may take legal action, claiming staff at her school blamed her for being bullied.

Laura Rhodes, 13, died in an apparent suicide pact with friend Rebecca Ling last September. Her friend survived.

Michael and Yvonne Rhodes claimed their daughter was bullied while attending Cefn Saeson School in Neath.

But school governors have insisted that teachers and education officials had acted "entirely properly".

Just two months after Laura's death, the school was later praised for the way it tackled bullying, and for the support provided by staff.

The records state quite clearly that Laura was bullied and she was treated as though she was to blame
Michael Rhodes

But Mr and Mrs Rhodes have now said they are considering taking legal action. They have obtained copies of school records, which they claim show that staff thought Laura was responsible for being bullied.

But before making a final decision, they will wait until the outcome of an inquest into their daughter's death, expected to start on 11 May.

They claim the secondary school's records show it took a "blame-the-victim" attitude towards the bullying allegations.

Laura was later removed from Cefn Saeson and sent to a local pupil referral unit instead.

She was to have returned to mainstream education, but went missing in September. She sparked a nationwide missing persons hunt by disappearing with her friend Rebecca Ling.

The girls were found in Bath and taken back to Laura's home. That night, they both took an overdose. Doctors were able to save Rebecca, then aged 14, but not Laura.

Laura Rhodes
An inquest into the death of Laura Rhodes will start on 11 May

After Laura's death, her parents found a letter she had written that chronicled the misery she had endured at school.

It was reproduced in several national newspapers and used to highlight fears there appeared to be a growing culture of bullying in schools.

Mr Rhodes said on Monday: "This is not about money.

"We are looking at taking legal action because we want something done about the way this school tackles bullying."

He and his wife will appear in a BBC Panorama documentary next Sunday which will reveal the contents of the school records.

"The records state quite clearly that Laura was bullied and she was treated as though she was to blame," Mr Rhodes said.

"The things which have come out from these records are quite hard to believe."

Chairman of the school governors Peter Rees said he did not want to say too much until after Laura's inquest.

But, he commented :"The fact of the matter was, Laura Rhodes was not a pupil at the school for some 14 months before this tragedy happened.

"I feel that the school and the LEA acted entirely properly, as did other agencies that were involved. "

Mr Rees pointed out that a school inspectors' report had found pastoral care at the school was "outstanding". And, he added : "I know that from experience that that is the case."

The inspectors' report stated : "The school has effective measures to eliminate oppressive behaviour including bullying, sexism and racism."


SEE ALSO:
'Bullying' claim school praised
21 Jan 05 |  South West Wales
Pupils deny school bullying claim
30 Sep 04 |  South West Wales
'Suicide pact' girl's tragic letter
22 Sep 04 |  South West Wales


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