Sexual bullying hard to confront

Schools need more guidance on how to tackle homophobic bullying, according to a report compiled following the suicide of teenager Laura Rhodes.

The unpublished report, from Neath Port Talbot's education service, says homophobic bullying "is the hardest to tackle". It also mentions providing mental health advice to schools.

But Dr Alison Parken, director of Stonewall Cymru, the lesbian and gay support charity, said good guidance was already available in Wales and that it was "way beyond time to move towards implementation".

She said: "We have the right policy atmosphere in Wales, but we are not getting it into schools. Teachers feel particularly uncomfortable about challenging homophobic bullying.

"They need on-going training about sexuality issues, and there needs to be someone in every school who can advise colleagues and pupils on the subject."

Laura killed herself in September 2004 in a suicide pact survived by her friend. An inquest found she had been bullied about her weight and her sexuality while a pupil at Cefn Saeson comprehensive, Neath.

However, the coroner cleared the school of blame for her death, ruling the suicide pact was motivated by the girls' fear of separation and anxieties about homophobia.

As TES Cymru went to press, NPT was refusing to publish its report, pending confirmation of reports that Laura's parents have withdrawn a threat of legal action.

But education director Karl Napieralla said: "All agencies will now develop plans which will ensure services are geared up to give even greater support to individuals, families and organisations involved."

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