Desperate father makes UK legal history by suing his bullied daughter's school for the cost of sending her to self-defence classes

Published on May 5, 2016

A desperate father is hoping to make UK legal history by suing his daughter's school for the cost of sending her to self-defence classes to help protect her from bullies.

The parent, who does not want to be named, is taking Thorns Community College in Stourbridge, West Midlands, to a small claims court in a bid to claw back £57.35 for the weekly martial arts lessons.

He claims the school is liable for failing to protect his 14-year-old daughter from classroom bullies, and says since she moved to the school last September she has been verbally abused, taunted on social media and even punched in the face while she ate her lunch.

She is now taking classes in Jeet Kune Do (JKD), which her father says will equip her 'with the necessary skills to protect herself'.

He said: 'We moved house in the summer and my daughter started in Year 10 in September but almost from the start there were problems.

'It started with verbal bullying but soon escalated to shoving and punching. I think some of the other girls were jealous and said she was posh because her previous school was nicer.

'Every day she was being teased or bullied both at school and on social media. I went to the school but they didn't seem to care or take it seriously.

'In January my daughter was having lunch in the canteen and a group of girls from the year above approached her and she was punched twice in the face.

'She called me on my phone and told me what had happened. I rang the school but they didn't take it seriously and were blasé.
'I called the police who spoke to the girl involved. I went into the school and told them that if they couldn't keep my daughter safe they would have to pay for her to have self-defence classes.

'She goes every Tuesday for training of JKD and it has really improved her confidence.

'The physical attacks have stopped but the verbal abuse continues every day. She is in her GCSE years so we can't move her which is a real shame because the school is in crisis.

'Bullying is a major problem at the school. I have taken this action to sue the school because it's the only way to make them take notice and actually do something to tackle it.'

The girl said she is too scared to walk around school on her own in case she is set upon by the gang of bullies.
She said: 'The trouble all started as soon as I joined the school. A group of older girls called me s**g, s**t and b****. I have no idea why.

'They carried on abusing me on Facebook so I blocked them but they wouldn't stop.

'I didn't even speak to them but it has got so bad I am too scared to walk around the school on my own so my friends have to come with me wherever I go.

'The teachers don't seem to care. Every time I was abused or physically attacked I went to the school and wrote about 60 individual statements but nothing ever gets done.

'The day I was punched an older girl started hassling me in school. I told her to leave me alone but she followed me and corned me in the canteen.

'She punched me and my head bounced off a table. I had a massive black eye.. I told the school but they only told my dad what had happened after I called him.

'I feel really let down by the school. I do have friends but I have to keep looking over my shoulder in case one of the bullies is after me.'

The father's case is backed by community group Parents Against Bullying at Thorns (PABAT) after figures revealed the school had dealt with more than 400 incidents of bullying in the last two years.

Police have been called to the school - which caters for 1,245 pupils aged 11 to 16 - on 22 separate occasions since 2014.

A spokesman for the group said: 'This is thought to be the first case of its kind anywhere in the United Kingdom where a parent has been forced to take such drastic action due to the inability of the school's leadership to deal with a case of bullying.

'We have fully advised and supported the parent throughout his dealings with the school.

'If the case is successful, we will be encouraging other parents whose children are being bullied to take the same action.

'Hopefully this will force the college to address the bullying issue by a small minority of children who appear to act with impunity.'

The father has applied to the court claiming back the £57.35 cost of the classes and £25 court costs.
The particulars of the claim states: 'I have met with and complained to the Head of Inclusion, the Principal and the Chair of Governors. Despite all of this, the action taken has been minimal and the bullying has continued.
'As a result of the bullying and threats of physical violence, I have enrolled her on a self-defence course. Given that the school has failed in its statutory duty to protect her.

'I have taken the very unusual step of equipping her with the necessary skills to protect herself.

'As I have been forced to do this, due to the school's inaction, I believe the school should refund the initial joining fee and first partial month's lesson costs.

'The school has refused, hence this application.'

The claim, which comes for a total of £82.35, was made on April 23 and the school has until Saturday to respond.
If they do not respond, the father will win his claim by default. The school can also choose to contest the claim in a court of law or pay the amount being claimed for.

Principal of Thorns Andy Cox confirmed the school has received the court notification and will be 'acting on that in due course'.

He said: 'The claims made by the parent behind PABAT stem from an issue concerning a pupil which was dealt with swiftly and appropriately by staff earlier this year.

'It is important we protect this pupil, along with all other pupils at the school, and it is for this reason we will not be going into further detail on this matter.

'We have a zero tolerance policy on all kinds of issues including bullying, verbal abuse and racism. Like many other schools we have incidents to deal with, which are quickly and properly handled by staff.

'Young people will always test boundaries and these figures reflect our determination to instil tough, simple and effective sanctions where boundaries are crossed.