Onlookers filmed Sheffield schoolgirl's bullying ordeal rather than help

A schoolgirl assaulted by a gang on a busy Sheffield road has been left too afraid to leave the house '“ as videos of the bullying attack were watched 250,000 times.

Wednesday, 27th April 2016, 9:48 am
Updated Wednesday, 27th April 2016, 10:53 am
13-year-old Courtney Rodgerson and mum Toni

Courtney Rodgerson, aged 13, was left bruised, grazed and terrified but the Bradfield pupil has been forced to relive the horrific ordeal after videos of the attack were posted on social media.

Children’s charities Kidscape and the NSPCC today condemned sharing the teenager’s attack video online – warning it could ‘very easily lead to further incidents of bullying and humiliation and make Courtney’s situation even worse’.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

A Kidscape spokesman said videos depicting bullying incidents should ‘never be shared online’ but should always be passed onto the relevant authorities.

Courtney’s mum Toni has condemned the gang of up to 30 teenagers who assaulted her daughter in broad daylight and said she feels ‘sickened’ by those who watched on and recorded the attack instead of helping her daughter.

The 29-year-old says her usually ‘happy’ daughter has not been able to stop shaking since the attack and is now fearful of leaving the house and returning to school as normal.

Videos of the attack on Penistone Road were taken by at least three different people and shared on social media over the weekend.

They had been watched around 250,000 times yesterday afternoon.

Toni was sent the videos of the attack, including one taken in slow-motion, but says she has no idea who took them and believes some could even have been taken by her attackers.

She said: “I’ve had videos of it sent to me, and it makes me feel sick.

“I don’t know who took them, but I think it’s absolutely disgusting that someone could take these videos instead of helping her.

“They were sent to me late on Saturday night, and then not long after she saw them on her own Facebook page because people had started to share them. I think she did find it shocking.

“I don’t think they should have been put online without my permission.”

But Toni said she believes the videos being in the public domain could be a positive thing if they can lead to Courtney’s attackers being identified and help to highlight the dangers of bullying.

Courtney was walking home alone along Penistone Road, Hillsborough, after a day out at the fair with friends when she was set upon the gang of around 30 teenagers at around 3.45pm on Saturday.

Only two members of the gang were known to the Bradfield School pupil prior to the unprovoked attack, during which was pushed to the ground and into park railings, had her hair pulled and was kicked in the head.

Members of the group, believed to have included pupils from at least three different Sheffield schools including Bradfield School, Forge Valley and Parkwood Academy, also verbally abused Courtney.

Care worker mum Toni said the ordeal had left her daughter shaking with fear.

She said: “She’d tried to ring me but I hadn’t realised, and she phoned my mum who told me that Courtney had said ‘they’re getting me, they’re getting me’.

“All I knew was that she was at Hillsborough Park, and that someone was getting her, I didn’t know if it was men or what. Anything could have been happening to her. I was really scared.

“I got off the bus and ran straight there – but by that point a stranger must have seen her crying her eyes out so looked after her and took her to the bus stop where her step-grandad was waiting for her.

“When I finally got to her she was shaking and so scared. She hasn’t been able to stop shaking since it happened.

“I’m absolutely livid, I was fuming when I found out.

“She’s got grazes on both knees, and a lump on her head afterwards.”

The incident has been reported to police and Toni says she hopes the parents of the children involved in the incident encourage them to own up.

She said: “If I found out my daughter had been involved in something like this I would drag her down to the police station so she can realise what she’s done.

“The parents need to take responsibility too, they can’t let their children get away with acting like this.”

Toni says she is worried about the lasting effect the ordeal could have on Courtney.

“She’s terrified, she doesn’t want to go out of the house on her own now because of what’s happened.

“She’s been happy at school, and usually knocks about with her friends after school – but now she’s had that taken away from her.

“It took her ages to get on well with school because of having problems with reading and stuff. She was finally doing well, and has now had her confidence completely knocked out of her.”

A South Yorkshire Police spokesman said: “Police are investigating following reports of an assault on a teenage girl.

“The girl suffered minor injuries as a result of the incident but did not require hospital treatment.

“An investigation is now under way to identify those involved.”

Forge Valley School headteacher Dale Barrowclough said: “I have been made aware of an incident, involving youths from across north Sheffield, which took place over the weekend in Hillsborough.

“I understand that footage taken of this incident has been posted on various social media sites. This is now being investigated by police and it would not be appropriate for me to comment at this time.”

Parkwood Academy principal Rachel Smith said: “We have been made aware of an incident involving young people from across north Sheffield, which took place over the weekend.

“We understand there is an ongoing police investigation into the matter. The safety and well-being of all our students is always our main concern and we will work with all stakeholders to ensure the safety of all.”

Children’s charities today condemned sharing videos depicting bullying – warning they cause unnecessary humiliation for victims and could lead to more incidents.

A spokesman for Kidscape said: “This shocking video underlines the ever-present dangers of social media.

“It is bad enough that this poor girl was attacked, but to then have the video shared on social media could very easily lead to further incidents of bullying and humiliation and make Courtney’s situation even worse.

“Films depicting incidents like this should never be share online, but always passed to the relevant authorities who have the power to act.

“It is also extremely important that parents have honest conversations with their children about their online behaviour, and know what course of action to take if their children are involved in situations like this.”

An NSPCC spokesperson said: “Bullying, whether it involves physical or verbal abuse, can have a long-lasting and hugely damaging impact on the young people targeted. As more children spend an increasing amount of time online this bullying becomes harder for some to escape.

“In cases where instances of bullying are recorded and shared online, this can often lead to the further humiliation of the child at the centre of such videos.

“While it’s important people understand the impact of this bullying, repeatedly sharing videos such as this could also cause further upset to the young victim. It is vital to consider the feelings of the young victim and their welfare above all else.

“The NSPCC provides help and advice to children who suffer bullying both on and off-line – last year alone there were 7,296 counselling sessions about online bullying and safety from across the UK.”

Linda James, CEO of anti-bullying charity Bullies Out, branded the video ‘disgusting’ and said she understood videos of assaults could potentially help bring perpetrators to justice – but believed it was ultimately detrimental to victims.

She said: “Sadly we see too many of these videos that show groups assaulting and bullying an individual.

“I think some people shown carrying out these assaults may even get a kick out of the notoriety and criticism videos like this being widely shared brings.

“I can understand that it’s tempting because it can help police catch those involved, but it must be incredibly humiliating for this poor girl to know it’s been watched so many times.

“What we need is for schools and the police to work together to make sure people involved in attacks like this are properly punished, and that there are proper deterrents for bullying.

“I think everyone in that video needs to be put on a behaviour management programme – because you’ve got to think that if they’re not stopped and made to understand that acting like this is wrong now, what will these people be like when they’re 18 and 19? Will they end up committing domestic abuse because they’ve never been made to understand the consequences of their actions?”

n If any young person needs to speak to someone in complete confidence, ChildLine councillors are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week on 0800 1111, or at Childline