Pupils learn from mum's anti-bullying campaign
A mother whose daughter was murdered simply because she was dressed as a goth brought her campaign for an end to bullying to Leicestershire yesterday.
Sylvia Lancaster told a group of young people in Loughborough how her daughter, Sophie, was beaten unconscious in a park in Lancashire in August 2007.
Sophie later died of her injuries.
It later emerged the 20-year-old and her boyfriend had been picked out because they were dressed as goths.
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Mrs Lancaster's charity, the Sophie Lancaster Foundation, visits schools, youth centres and prisons to tackle the problem of bullying and intolerance among young people.
The campaign, called Sophie – Stamp Out Prejudice, Hatred and Intolerance, Everywhere – came to Loughborough's Limehurst Academy yesterday.
It is the first school in Leicestershire to use an educational pack produced by the charity.
Speaking after she had spent the afternoon with students at the Bridge Street school, Mrs Lancaster said: "After my daughter died I wanted to do something to help prevent anything like this ever happening again.
"The kids at Limehurst were fabulous. They didn't know who I was or what had happened to my daughter until I told them.
"I find young people respond to her story because they know it might have been them, their sister or the girl next door.."
All secondary schools in the city and county now have packs, which include a film about Sophie's death and a game which encourages students to examine their preconceptions and prejudices about people who are different to them because of fashion, race, faith, sexuality or disability.
Darren Goddard, Leicestershire Police's hate crime officer, said: "Limehurst Academy does not have a problem with bullying, but I have said to schools that they don't have to have that problem to get involved in a campaign like this.
"It's a very simple message – just because someone doesn't look exactly like you, behave the same or even be able to do things you can do, it doesn't mean they are not a human being.
"It's a message the children can take with them away from school and out into the community."
Sheila Fisher, deputy head of the academy, said: "The message Sylvia brought to the school is very much one we teach every day, but for the students to hear it from someone who has had such a personal experience gave it more resonance."
Teachers from about 40 of city and county schoools attended Leicestershire Police headquarters in Enderby on Tuesday to meet Mrs Lancaster, who still lives in Lancashire, and to learn how to use the pack in their schools.