English schoolgirl sues Scottish council over 'racist bullying' - 13th October 2006
A girl who was claims she was subjected to anti-English abuse at her school on a remote Scottish island is planning to sue a local council for failing to protect her from the bullies.
Sophie Parks, 17, suffered cuts and bruises and had to be admitted to hospital following physical and mental abuse from fellow pupils on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides.
Her family claims she was repeatedly beaten up and called an "English bitch" by a gang of girls during her time at the Nicolson Institute in Stornoway.
They say the bullying got so bad that the teenager had contemplated suicide and was forced to leave the island and go and live with her grandparents in Sheffield.
Now they hope to bring a civil case against Western Isles Council for not doing more to protect the youngster during her time at the school.
Today, the teenager's mother, Sally, said they wanted to prevent anyone else suffering such treatment. "It was awful, it was mob-handed, it was just disgraceful," she said.
"Sophie has got bruised kidneys because of the bullying and it has also affected her emotionally. We just don't want to see this happen to anyone else."
Glasgow solicitor Cameron Fyfe today confirmed he had taken a statement from Sophie and added that they were waiting for the outcome of another case before deciding whether to take legal action.
Schoolgirl Natalie King is suing Aberdeen City Council for £20,000 over its alleged failure to protect her from bullies.
Her case is due to call in January, and, if she wins, it could pave the way for around 25 more of Mr Fyfe's cases, including that of Sophie, to be heard in court.
Ms Parks, 46, a cleaner, said Sophie was initially happy after they moved to Lewis from Derbyshire in 2003. "It was great, she had a pony, she had friends, everything was good," she added.
But she said when the teenager, then 15, entered her third year at the institute, things began to change. "Sophie was not withdrawn, but she was snappy and I didn't know what was wrong.
"One day she turned round to me and said 'How would you like to be smashed in the face?"'
Last August Sophie decided to leave the island, and is now studying at college in Chesterfield, near Sheffield. "It was so painful the day Sophie left, she was so distraught that the plane could not take off straight away," said her mother.
Ms Parks added that she had contacted the school on numerous occasions about the bullying, but she was not satisfied with its response. "If was as if they were taking it as a personal insult," she said.
"The children responsible just appeared to be getting a slap on the hand."
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