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Don't walk alone, students warned on bullying

Aron Postolovich, Luke Hemmons, Nicholas Laurie and Natasha Duarte.

A FORUM on bullying in western Sydney yesterday heard of horror stories from students who were bashed and assaulted on the way to and from school.

The anti-violence forum organised by Australian International Performing Arts School teacher Andrew Stopps was told some students are being targeted by roaming gangs of bullies.

To combat the attacks, students were yesterday told to walk in groups of six or eight.

The move came after the forum heard of horror encounters that children as young as 12 had experienced on their journey home.

School Angels is about finding holes in the system and making sure we can find solutions."

One 14-year-old girl, who was held down by a gang of boys in a bus two months ago and sexually assaulted, told the forum she could no longer sleep at night and was too scared to walk or travel alone.

In another frightening attack, a gang of more than 10 men, held up three students aged 12 to 14 at knifepoint for their pocket money and mobile phones.

One of the victims was so traumatised he has not returned to his old school.

Student Nicholas Laurie, 15, survived that attack and yesterday said he hoped the anti-violence forum, and Mr Stopps' new movement, School Angels, would end gang attacks on young people. "It was terrifying. Crazy. They took our money and our mobile phones, and emptied our bags out all over the ground," he said.

"Once they had taken what they wanted, they told us to run or they would pull guns.

"My friend is being home-schooled now. It's not fair and it's definitely kids on their own who are being targeted."

The forum heard from teachers, RailCorp, police, parenting groups and child behaviour experts that gang culture was worsening in the west but many victims were not reporting it.

Mr Stopps created School Angels, a website-based support network, four weeks ago. It provides a reporting form so police and transport officials can be notified of attacks. It also provides a forum to give victims a voice.

"I am shocked that this is happening and I feel anxiety for the children. I want to find a way to stop this," Mr Stopps said.

"School Angels is about finding holes in the system and making sure we can find solutions."

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