Matthew Taylor, education correspondent
Friday November 26, 2004
More than 40 teenagers have been suspended from a girls' school after they threatened to kill a fellow pupil in what the headteacher yesterday described as an episode of "mob rule".
They were caught on a security camera threatening and jostling the youngster. When two teachers arrived to break up the girls they refused to move.
Pam Orchard, headteacher at the Glenmoor School, in Bournemouth, Dorset, said: "I can only describe it as mob rule taking over. Girls who are normally polite and accommodating crowding around this girl ... They were pushing her, shoving her. She was threatened and absolutely petrified. She was told, 'You're dead if you come back.' That was the threat that was issued to her."
The incident happened on Tuesday, a day after the government launched the UK's first Anti-Bullying Week.
Last night ministers said the initiative had generated a massive response from schoolchildren and parents, with quarter of a million anti-bullying wristbands ordered since Monday.
Schools minister Stephen Twigg said: "This incredible response shows what an important issue this is not just for pupils but for parents as well. We have given out what we predicted would be at least a month's supply of the anti-bullying wristbands in a few days. People clearly want the chance to stand up and say that bullying will not be tolerated."
The government, which estimates that a third of secondary school pupils and a quarter of primary school children are bullied at some stage, have ordered an extra 750,000 wristbands.
Mr Twigg said: "The response is a real tribute to the young people who have said enough is enough. By making this stand they have shown their determination to beat bullying."
The girls at the school in Bournemouth, which has about 900 pupils, were suspended until Monday following a management meeting on Tuesday night.
Mrs Orchard said: "This was such a disgraceful incident that I had no option but to suspend for a fixed term those girls who participated in it."
Carolyn Godfrey, head of inclusion and achievement at Bournemouth local education authority, said: "All schools in Bournemouth supported by the LEA place a high priority on maintaining high standards of behaviour in line with their behaviour policies.
"We are confident that actions taken by Glenmoor School will have been entirely in accordance with maintaining these high standards in the interests of all our children."
Last night Gill Francies, from the Anti-Bullying Alliance, said schools which were successful in tackling bullying usually had a clear strategy in place to deal with problems and worked with parents, pupils and staff to prevent potential problems developing.
"Bullying is a massive issue not just for children but for adults as well," she said. "A quarter of a million people have requested one of these wristbands already and that number is rising all the time. If we take nothing else from the success of the first Anti-Bullying Week we must realise that it is no longer acceptable to stand on the sidelines and be passive, we must get involved and make a stand."
This week Mr Twigg set out plans to help schools tackle homophobic bullying in particular, and the anti-bullying initiative has been supported by a range of celebrities.