Sunday, November 8, 2009

Student harassed


A YOUNG woman who claims she was bullied by her teachers at a Gold Coast high school over her mobile phone use is suing for more than $500,000.

Lauren Amber Clark, now 21, claims her teenage years at Helensvale State High were "a living hell" and she wants the school and teachers to be held accountable.

Ms Clark, who attended the school between 2001 and 2003, said she needed her mobile phone to be in touch with her father, who had had a stroke and a heart attack.

"The mobile phone was my umbilical cord with my dad," Ms Clark said.

"He could only use his left arm. He was paralysed down the right side."

Ms Clark's claim against the State of Queensland for $543,501 damages for negligence, alleges she was bullied, harassed and intimidated by four teachers at Helensvale State High.

It is believed to be the first Queensland case involving a former student suing over alleged bullying by teachers over mobile phone use.

"I want to create a legal precedent so teachers will be scared to treat students like that," Ms Clark, who lives south of Brisbane, said.

Ms Clark claimed because of her father's condition, she was unable to attend some classes and was sometimes late.

"He had a heart attack as soon as I got home from school one day and I had to call triple 0," she said.

Teachers allegedly bullied her by refusing to allow her to use her mobile phone, repeatedly taking it off her and subjecting her to "denigration and condemnation" over her use of the phone.

In her claim, filed in the Supreme Court in Brisbane on Tuesday, Ms Clark claimed she was repeatedly punished for using her mobile, not attending or being late for classes.

She also claims she was falsely accused of smoking a cigarette inside a school building and was punished for it.

Ms Clark's father died in May this year.

Ms Clark said sometimes she was late for class because her father's carer did not show up at their home and she had to help her mother get her father up, showered and fed.

"Here I was, a 13-year-old, heaving my 100kg father off the bathroom floor, and then I went back to school. I didn't tell anybody," she said.

Ms Clark said teachers, who were aware of her father's medical condition, verbally abused her and made her out to be "a retard" in front of other students.

She alleged that as a result of the bullying, harassment and intimidation by teachers she suffered a major depressive disorder and panic attacks. She claims to have experienced sleep disturbance, constant crying, anxiety and impaired concentration, which affected her ability to enjoy life.

Ms Clark, who still becomes emotional when she talks about her father and the struggles in her school years, said she left the school and did not complete year 12 until last year. She is now studying for a diploma in justice and has just become engaged.

"No one should have gone through what I have gone through," Ms Clark said.

"Teachers should be accountable for their own actions. To say my school life was hell was an understatement. It was torture. I'm still suffering."

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