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DRIVEN TO SUICIDE BID OVER ENGLISH ACCENT; Natasha, 15, lived in fear of school bullies.

Byline: MARION SCOTT EXCLUSIVE

A SCHOOLGIRL tried to kill herself after being bullied over her English accent.

Natasha Distin, 15, took an overdose of paracetamol last weekend after enduring a two-year hate campaign by classmates at Islay High School.

The teenager was airlifted by helicopter from Islay and rushed to the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Paisley where she had her stomach pumped.

Doctors say she only survived because she was violently sick after downing 40 paracetamol pills.

After being released from hospital on Thursday, Natasha, who moved to the island from Devon two years ago, said: "I've been telling my teachers for months and months about the bullies and what they do to me.

"They call me an English slut and English slapper. They make fun of my accent and swear at me.

"I'm always being pushed, nipped and hit whenever the bullies see me - in the corridors, on the school bus and in the playground.

"I feel so betrayed and let down by everyone. I couldn't take it anymore and wanted to end all the pain. I can't help my accent, I can't change it, it's part of me. But I'd rather die than go back to Islay High School."

Her angry mum Elizabeth Stokes, who lives near Port Ellen, added: "Natasha has been made to feel like an outcast because of her accent.

"The school has been aware of the bullying for a long, long time but, in my opinion, they've not done nearly enough to stamp out bullying or racist taunts.

"The same crowd have been repeatedly physically attacking and verbally abusing Natasha to such an extent she tried to kill herself. We could so easily have lost her."

Natasha's tragic story comes just months after the suicide of 15-year-old Nicola Raphael, the target of bullies at Lenzie Academy.

Now Nicola's mum, Rhona Raphael is demanding a face to face meeting with Education Minister Jack McConnell in a bid for all-out action to stop the bullying.

She said: "How many children must lose their lives, and how many more must live in torment because of this terrible scourge?

"I want to explain to Jack McConnell about the terrible damage bullying can do to children like my Nicola and Natasha Distin. He needs to introduce anti-bullying policies that work.

"Too many schools are loathe to admit there's a problem , far less tackle it head on."

Children's charity Childline, counselled 6500 Scots kids who contacted their bullying hotline last year.

Anne Houston, director of Childline Scotland said: "They suffered a range of bullying from verbal abuse to severe physical abuse. Some are so intimidated, they do become suicidal.

Ms Houston said that while some schools had introduced excellent anti-bullying policies, the situation was "quite patchy" across Scotland.

She said: "Some schools completely deny there is a problem because they see it as a failure of the school."

Childline Scotland operate a special bullying hotline on 0800 44 11 11.
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No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2001 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Nov 4, 2001
Words:490
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