Bullied teenager left goodbye message, mother says

BBC, 3 April 2014, UK

The mother of a teenage boy who has died in hospital after leaving a goodbye message has said her son could not cope with bullying.

Simon Brooks, 15, of Tonyrefail, Rhondda Cynon Taf, died on Tuesday, four days after a suspected overdose.

Julie Brooks said her son had suffered bullying at both his current school, Y Pant, in Pontyclun, and former school.

RCT council and the schools have been asked to respond to the allegations of bullying, but have not yet responded.

BBC Wales has been told that a number of pupils staged demonstrations in support of Simon at the school on Thursday afternoon, chanting his name.

South Wales Police said a local officer became aware of the situation, and it was dealt with by the school.

Mrs Brooks said she was surprised at how much planning Simon had put into his actions last Friday, when police were called to their home in Tonyrefail.

He was taken to the Royal Glamorgan Hospital at Llantrisant and died at the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff.

She said his "goodbye letter" was in the form of a note on his phone, part of which said: "I can't cope any more."

Mrs Brooks said Simon told the ambulance man who had taken him to hospital for treatment: "I'm being bullied."

A Facebook tribute page, RIP Simon Brooks, has also been set up.

Mrs Brooks said Simon left Ysgol Gyfun Treorchi after he was allegedly assaulted on a train on the way to school. However Simon did not want to press charges.

His mother said he had then been subjected to at least 18 months of bullying at Y Pant, including being pushed about, having his bag grabbed and subjected to verbal abuse.

She said: "He loved the lessons and had a lovely group of friends, but he wasn't being left alone at break times and lunchtimes."

She said that every Sunday night he would beg his mother not to send him to school. Mrs Brooks said that during holidays he would count the days and hours until he had to go back.

One day nine months ago, he took wine to Y Pant and was punished for breaking the rules. But his mother said he had done it to "numb the pain of the bullies".

Simon was worried that complaining to the school would only make it worse.

Mrs Brooks wants lessons to be learned from Simon's death, and for awareness of bullying to be raised.

She said she had spoken at length to Y Pant's head, Mark Powell, since Simon died and wanted to keep an "open relationship" with the school. Mrs Brooks said Mr Powell and his staff had been "trying very hard" but schools were under pressure from government and "under the microscope".

'Shocked and saddened'
At present she said she was leaving any conclusions to be drawn from Simon's death to the coroner.

A spokeswoman for RCT council said Y Pant pupils wore purple on Wednesday as a mark of respect for Simon. The council said counsellors and educational psychologists were at the school advising pupils, and parents were also being given support and grief guidance.

In a statement issued before Mrs Brooks spoke to BBC Wales, Mark Powell, head teacher of Y Pant, said: "We are all shocked and saddened by the death of Simon Brooks and our thoughts and sincere condolences are with his family and friends at this tragic time.

"We at the school and its wider community are struggling to come to terms with his sudden death and our main focuses at this time are to respect the wishes of his family and to support those pupils who have been affected."

His school Y Pant, his former school, Treorchy comprehensive, which is also in RCT, and the council have been asked for a comment following Mrs Brooks's interview, but have not yet responded.

Y Pant's website publishes its bullying policy: "We take every allegation of bullying very seriously at Y Pant and have a zero tolerance approach where we find bullying has occurred."

Feel safe
The school also took part in an anti-bullying week last November, and its website said it took the campaign "very seriously".

Bullying was addressed at assembly during the week, and pupils could buy "make bullying unacceptable" wristbands. They were told they could "wear the band with pride".

Treorchy Comprehensive School also emphasises that it tackles bullying.

On its website, the school says: "We feel it is important to help pupils focus on their role within the school and outline to them how they can help themselves and others.

"We have the right not to be bullied in any way, shape or form. We have the responsibility not to bully others and to report any bullying we see. We have the right to feel safe in and around school."

In a statement, South Wales Police did not name Simon, but said they were called to Tonyrefail on Friday where a boy needed "urgent medical assistance".

He was first taken to the Royal Glamorgan and later transferred to the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff, where he died early on Tuesday.

Police said they were "investigating the circumstances surrounding the incident which at this stage is not thought to be suspicious".