Ex-pupil loses £75,000 claim for bullying

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The Independent Online

A teenager lost her claim yesterday for £75,000 against the local authority she said failed to protect her from"persistent" bullying.

A teenager lost her claim yesterday for £75,000 against the local authority she said failed to protect her from"persistent" bullying.

Leah Bradford-Smart, 19, from Crawley, West Sussex, said she had post-traumatic stress disorder because of bullying at Ifield Middle School. Ms Bradford-Smart, who sells theatre and pop concert tickets, said bullies branded her an "exhibitionist" and "prostitute" who "flaunted her body" when she was nine because another girl had seen her in a paddling pool with just her knickers on.

She said she was chased around the playground, thrown against fences, suffered taunts, and once pushed into the road in front of a car as she waited for the school bus.

But West Sussex County Council said there was little if any sign she was bullied at school and accused her mother, Susan, of "greatly exaggerating" the number of times bullying was brought to the school's attention. The council said the school had an anti-bullying policy and was ahead of its time in dealing with the issue.

Mr Justice Garland said in the High Court: "[Even if] a school knows a pupil is being bullied at home or on the way to and from school, it would not be practical, fair, just and reasonable to impose upon it a greater duty than to take reasonable steps to prevent that bullying spilling into the school."

He acknowledged that Leah was seriously bullied at home and on the bus to school. He said: "If the school chooses, as a matter of judgement, to be pro-active then that is a matter of discretion, not obligation. Talking to the children or to their parents may or may not produce a benefit. Taken to extremes, excluding the bullies from school would probably greatly exacerbate the situation.

"A school cannot reasonably be expected to do more than to take reasonable steps to prevent a child being bullied while it is actually at the school."

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