Father Paul Vodden to speak out about bus bullying after son, Ben, killed himself

Bournemouth Echo: VIDEO: Grieving dad whose son hanged himself after school bus bullying backs new campaign VIDEO: Grieving dad whose son hanged himself after school bus bullying backs new campaign

A GRIEVING dad whose 11-year-old son hanged himself after being relentlessly bullied on a school bus is behind a new campaign to tackle the issue.

Ben Vodden was taunted and physically attacked by children while a bus driver stood by and even joined in with the insults.

The desperate youngster told his parents he had no friends and was being bullied but their repeated attempts to help him fell on deaf ears.

After one harrowing bus journey the youngster was found unconscious and dying after hanging himself from his bunk bed.

Now his dad, Paul Vodden, is to be one of the speakers at a Transport Safety Conference where he will present the results of his own research into the problem, The Vodden Report.

Mr Vodden, who lives in Kingcup Close, Broadstone, carried out his own online survey into bullying on dedicated school buses.

He will present his findings to the conference in Swindon on April 1.

He said: “Where else would you have 50 children in a confined space and with no supervision? Bullying is rife on school buses and, even if drivers see something is going on, there is not much they can do about it.

“In most cases they have received no training in how to deal with children and don’t know the difference between normal activities and bullying.

“In Ben’s case the driver thought he was just joining in with a bit of childish banter and had no idea of the effect it was having.

“In many ways he was a victim too.”

Ben died in 2006 when the family lived in West Sussex.

They moved to Broadstone shortly afterwards. His mum, Caroline, is the Minister for the United Reformed Church in Broadstone and Lytchett Minster.

Paul is a self-employed coppice worker and Ben’s sister, Alice, 24, lives and works in Exeter.

Paul told the Daily Echo: “Ben had his tie and blazer stolen and he was called some very unpleasant names. One day he just went into his room and hanged himself. It was devastating and there was nothing to indicate it was at that level of seriousness.”

He said he aimed to continue to highlight issues surrounding bullying to avoid a similar situation in the future and hoped his new report could make a difference.

He hopes more training will be provided and that schools and bus companies will take the issue seriously.

“Ben was a lively, intelligent, funny, happy and lovely boy,” said Paul. “As a parent you expect, perhaps wrongly, that people in schools and dealing with children are trained to deal with children but that is not always necessarily true.”

Comments (15)

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1:08pm Mon 31 Mar 14

WfrpDice says...

what video?
what video? WfrpDice
  • Score: -26

1:39pm Mon 31 Mar 14

BournemouthMum says...

So sad that such a young boy was driven to this by cruel, heartless, hateful bullies.
So sad that such a young boy was driven to this by cruel, heartless, hateful bullies. BournemouthMum
  • Score: 45

2:38pm Mon 31 Mar 14

ASM says...

This is the saddest thing that could possibly happen. The parents are so strong and brave not to point the finger and blame the bus driver. They have experienced any parents worse nightmare. I was a bit of a bully when I was 10-15 years old and now I look back and feel awful for it. It boils down to immaturity and lack of guidelines or rules, maybe pier pressure too.
This is the saddest thing that could possibly happen. The parents are so strong and brave not to point the finger and blame the bus driver. They have experienced any parents worse nightmare. I was a bit of a bully when I was 10-15 years old and now I look back and feel awful for it. It boils down to immaturity and lack of guidelines or rules, maybe pier pressure too. ASM
  • Score: 22

2:41pm Mon 31 Mar 14

muscliffman says...

This tragic incident highlights a particular transport problem that has been swept under the carpet for far too long. Because in the main children travelling in large numbers often exceeding seventy or more at a time on commercial, private and local authority school buses are usually completely unsupervised. Basically this happens now because nobody wants to pay for it.

We cannot reasonably expect the drivers of these school buses/coaches to be able to have any journey time influence whatsoever upon the conduct of the children on board, especially as they already have more than enough on their plate concentrating upon proceeding safely along busy roads and to a timetable.

We can only imagine the reaction of the Teachers and their Unions if it were suggested they take responsibility for and sole charge of classes exceeding sixty children and whilst doing so drive them all several miles along busy roads at 30mph in buses. But this is exactly what is expected of our school bus drivers at present.

The only proper solution to this problem is to reintroduce empowered adult supervision on school buses (Conductors we used to call them!) to monitor behaviour and indeed to ensure compliance with safety issues such as the wearing of seat belts - nowadays quite often provided, but very rarely used by the kids.

This little boy might still be with us if an adult had seen what was happening on that bus and followed it up, but being realistic there is no possible way the bus driver could ever have been that person.

.
This tragic incident highlights a particular transport problem that has been swept under the carpet for far too long. Because in the main children travelling in large numbers often exceeding seventy or more at a time on commercial, private and local authority school buses are usually completely unsupervised. Basically this happens now because nobody wants to pay for it. We cannot reasonably expect the drivers of these school buses/coaches to be able to have any journey time influence whatsoever upon the conduct of the children on board, especially as they already have more than enough on their plate concentrating upon proceeding safely along busy roads and to a timetable. We can only imagine the reaction of the Teachers and their Unions if it were suggested they take responsibility for and sole charge of classes exceeding sixty children and whilst doing so drive them all several miles along busy roads at 30mph in buses. But this is exactly what is expected of our school bus drivers at present. The only proper solution to this problem is to reintroduce empowered adult supervision on school buses (Conductors we used to call them!) to monitor behaviour and indeed to ensure compliance with safety issues such as the wearing of seat belts - nowadays quite often provided, but very rarely used by the kids. This little boy might still be with us if an adult had seen what was happening on that bus and followed it up, but being realistic there is no possible way the bus driver could ever have been that person. . muscliffman
  • Score: 26

2:51pm Mon 31 Mar 14

Hessenford says...

How many more campaigns must it take before someone takes this bullying seriously.
My thoughts are with the Vodden family
How many more campaigns must it take before someone takes this bullying seriously. My thoughts are with the Vodden family Hessenford
  • Score: 23

3:47pm Mon 31 Mar 14

misplacedspaniard says...

I was bullied at school and tried to take an overdose.

Although I am now very happy with my life I still have self esteem issues.

Being bullied stays with you for life. I still feel sick when I see people I used to get bullied by at school.
I was bullied at school and tried to take an overdose. Although I am now very happy with my life I still have self esteem issues. Being bullied stays with you for life. I still feel sick when I see people I used to get bullied by at school. misplacedspaniard
  • Score: 27

5:27pm Mon 31 Mar 14

Teddy 1 says...

Bullies should neveer ever be tollerated. All too often teachers even at both broadstone school (I know this happened in west sussex) turn a blind eye to the issue, this is unforgivable. How the bus driver can live with what they did I dont know.

Travel on school busses is awful and this problem has been going on for donkeys years. This is why I chose to live near to a school for my child. Bullies dont automaticalky stop either when they are older...ayou know the ones, always have aa negative directed and hurtful comment/opinion to give.I put it down to them having uninteresting lives...they feel the need to comment albeit sweetly on others lives!!

Well done to the voddens for bringing this debate to the forefront and highlighting this issue.
Bullies should neveer ever be tollerated. All too often teachers even at both broadstone school (I know this happened in west sussex) turn a blind eye to the issue, this is unforgivable. How the bus driver can live with what they did I dont know. Travel on school busses is awful and this problem has been going on for donkeys years. This is why I chose to live near to a school for my child. Bullies dont automaticalky stop either when they are older...ayou know the ones, always have aa negative directed and hurtful comment/opinion to give.I put it down to them having uninteresting lives...they feel the need to comment albeit sweetly on others lives!! Well done to the voddens for bringing this debate to the forefront and highlighting this issue. Teddy 1
  • Score: 14

6:32pm Mon 31 Mar 14

Ayles 10 says...

WfrpDice wrote:
what video?
What planet are you on WfrpDice?

This is dreadfully painful story about an 11 year old boy that felt so desperate he took his life after being bullied.

My thoughts are with the poor family who have managed to cope with this.
[quote][p][bold]WfrpDice[/bold] wrote: what video?[/p][/quote]What planet are you on WfrpDice? This is dreadfully painful story about an 11 year old boy that felt so desperate he took his life after being bullied. My thoughts are with the poor family who have managed to cope with this. Ayles 10
  • Score: 4

6:59pm Mon 31 Mar 14

itsneverblackorwhite says...

My niece used to catch the school bus that served two Bournemouth Grammar schools, whilst she was not bullied the behaviour of some students mainly from the boys school was at best anti-social at worst dangerous to life. Sadly due to cost cutting the removal of transport escorts is the main problem here.
My niece used to catch the school bus that served two Bournemouth Grammar schools, whilst she was not bullied the behaviour of some students mainly from the boys school was at best anti-social at worst dangerous to life. Sadly due to cost cutting the removal of transport escorts is the main problem here. itsneverblackorwhite
  • Score: 6

8:13pm Mon 31 Mar 14

mydystopia says...

I was bullied and the school bus was the place I most feared. With no supervision and a bus driver with no power I was doomed every journey. I was hit, spat on, shoved around and more every single day. All it would have taken was one teacher on board for the journey and it all would have been different. But back then even when the bullying was reported, nothing was done. The teachers used to tell my mother I brought it on myself. But how? By trying harder and harder to fit in? By being clever and top of the class? Regardless, bullying is still not stamped out and continues to scar our innocent children. Schools and the bullies parents have a lot to answer for!
I was bullied and the school bus was the place I most feared. With no supervision and a bus driver with no power I was doomed every journey. I was hit, spat on, shoved around and more every single day. All it would have taken was one teacher on board for the journey and it all would have been different. But back then even when the bullying was reported, nothing was done. The teachers used to tell my mother I brought it on myself. But how? By trying harder and harder to fit in? By being clever and top of the class? Regardless, bullying is still not stamped out and continues to scar our innocent children. Schools and the bullies parents have a lot to answer for! mydystopia
  • Score: 15

9:56pm Mon 31 Mar 14

ashleycross says...

I found 6 years ago when my son started using a school bus in Poole that neither the school the teaching unions nor the council had even heard of the Education Act that at that time was already ten years old and said that the school had to make rules about how children behave on the bus. They all believed that the bus wasn't part of the school's responsibility. The council had no interest in cancelling the bus companys' contract because the bus was so badly run with children putting their bags over the periscope that allowed the driver to see the children upstairs. Children are precious and they are people with rights. Let's have a bit less of the anti human rights Daily Mail type attitude in Poole and start treating school children with dignity and respect instead of just some kind of lesser being that needs to be kept in order. Very sad to hear that this child was driven to suicide by the lack of care by the many adults responsible for his school bus.
I found 6 years ago when my son started using a school bus in Poole that neither the school the teaching unions nor the council had even heard of the Education Act that at that time was already ten years old and said that the school had to make rules about how children behave on the bus. They all believed that the bus wasn't part of the school's responsibility. The council had no interest in cancelling the bus companys' contract because the bus was so badly run with children putting their bags over the periscope that allowed the driver to see the children upstairs. Children are precious and they are people with rights. Let's have a bit less of the anti human rights Daily Mail type attitude in Poole and start treating school children with dignity and respect instead of just some kind of lesser being that needs to be kept in order. Very sad to hear that this child was driven to suicide by the lack of care by the many adults responsible for his school bus. ashleycross
  • Score: 2

11:11pm Mon 31 Mar 14

Yankee1 says...

So sad. This happened in 2006.

The good news is that there has been a sea change in public awareness about bullying. It came too late for Ben (and for two of my mates back in the 1960s), but it is there now. Bullying is no longer 'cool', acceptable, or legal. Kids cans speak up and get protection. So can adults.

Some of the worst bullies out there are the Press, who enjoy selling papers based on these stories, but do nothing to protect those who are victims. That includes The Echo.

Anyone who is being bullied, understand this: we will kick them into the gutter.
We will win this one. Hang in there. Right always trumps might.
So sad. This happened in 2006. The good news is that there has been a sea change in public awareness about bullying. It came too late for Ben (and for two of my mates back in the 1960s), but it is there now. Bullying is no longer 'cool', acceptable, or legal. Kids cans speak up and get protection. So can adults. Some of the worst bullies out there are the Press, who enjoy selling papers based on these stories, but do nothing to protect those who are victims. That includes The Echo. Anyone who is being bullied, understand this: we will kick them into the gutter. We will win this one. Hang in there. Right always trumps might. Yankee1
  • Score: 6

11:13pm Mon 31 Mar 14

ragj195 says...

muscliffman wrote:
This tragic incident highlights a particular transport problem that has been swept under the carpet for far too long. Because in the main children travelling in large numbers often exceeding seventy or more at a time on commercial, private and local authority school buses are usually completely unsupervised. Basically this happens now because nobody wants to pay for it.

We cannot reasonably expect the drivers of these school buses/coaches to be able to have any journey time influence whatsoever upon the conduct of the children on board, especially as they already have more than enough on their plate concentrating upon proceeding safely along busy roads and to a timetable.

We can only imagine the reaction of the Teachers and their Unions if it were suggested they take responsibility for and sole charge of classes exceeding sixty children and whilst doing so drive them all several miles along busy roads at 30mph in buses. But this is exactly what is expected of our school bus drivers at present.

The only proper solution to this problem is to reintroduce empowered adult supervision on school buses (Conductors we used to call them!) to monitor behaviour and indeed to ensure compliance with safety issues such as the wearing of seat belts - nowadays quite often provided, but very rarely used by the kids.

This little boy might still be with us if an adult had seen what was happening on that bus and followed it up, but being realistic there is no possible way the bus driver could ever have been that person.

.
You haven't had much interaction with the youth of today if you think a bus conductor would make a difference. Hearing a pupil tell a teacher to f off isn't unusual and that's coming from 10 year old kids in primary school! What do you think they would say to a bus conductor when told to buckle up?
[quote][p][bold]muscliffman[/bold] wrote: This tragic incident highlights a particular transport problem that has been swept under the carpet for far too long. Because in the main children travelling in large numbers often exceeding seventy or more at a time on commercial, private and local authority school buses are usually completely unsupervised. Basically this happens now because nobody wants to pay for it. We cannot reasonably expect the drivers of these school buses/coaches to be able to have any journey time influence whatsoever upon the conduct of the children on board, especially as they already have more than enough on their plate concentrating upon proceeding safely along busy roads and to a timetable. We can only imagine the reaction of the Teachers and their Unions if it were suggested they take responsibility for and sole charge of classes exceeding sixty children and whilst doing so drive them all several miles along busy roads at 30mph in buses. But this is exactly what is expected of our school bus drivers at present. The only proper solution to this problem is to reintroduce empowered adult supervision on school buses (Conductors we used to call them!) to monitor behaviour and indeed to ensure compliance with safety issues such as the wearing of seat belts - nowadays quite often provided, but very rarely used by the kids. This little boy might still be with us if an adult had seen what was happening on that bus and followed it up, but being realistic there is no possible way the bus driver could ever have been that person. .[/p][/quote]You haven't had much interaction with the youth of today if you think a bus conductor would make a difference. Hearing a pupil tell a teacher to f off isn't unusual and that's coming from 10 year old kids in primary school! What do you think they would say to a bus conductor when told to buckle up? ragj195
  • Score: 3

12:12am Tue 1 Apr 14

muscliffman says...

ragj195 wrote:
muscliffman wrote:
This tragic incident highlights a particular transport problem that has been swept under the carpet for far too long. Because in the main children travelling in large numbers often exceeding seventy or more at a time on commercial, private and local authority school buses are usually completely unsupervised. Basically this happens now because nobody wants to pay for it.

We cannot reasonably expect the drivers of these school buses/coaches to be able to have any journey time influence whatsoever upon the conduct of the children on board, especially as they already have more than enough on their plate concentrating upon proceeding safely along busy roads and to a timetable.

We can only imagine the reaction of the Teachers and their Unions if it were suggested they take responsibility for and sole charge of classes exceeding sixty children and whilst doing so drive them all several miles along busy roads at 30mph in buses. But this is exactly what is expected of our school bus drivers at present.

The only proper solution to this problem is to reintroduce empowered adult supervision on school buses (Conductors we used to call them!) to monitor behaviour and indeed to ensure compliance with safety issues such as the wearing of seat belts - nowadays quite often provided, but very rarely used by the kids.

This little boy might still be with us if an adult had seen what was happening on that bus and followed it up, but being realistic there is no possible way the bus driver could ever have been that person.

.
You haven't had much interaction with the youth of today if you think a bus conductor would make a difference. Hearing a pupil tell a teacher to f off isn't unusual and that's coming from 10 year old kids in primary school! What do you think they would say to a bus conductor when told to buckle up?
I actually agree, at one time the bus driver and conductor/clippie was respected and even feared on the school run, but I am sure that this would not be the case today.

School bus driver's today are routinely told to **** off and badly behaved kids are becoming well versed in what happens to their stricter bus drivers if children make malicious and totally unfounded allegations about them - the child is automatically believed prior to any investigation and the driver immediately suspended and treated by all Parties as if already proven guilty (Most Local Authorities default policy) The supervision I suggest would therefore have to only observe and report and would certainly be in no position to clip kids round the ear, as would have very effectively happened in the past.

But you can see even within these comments where the basic public/parent attitude problems can arise, with odd suggestions to cancel a Bus Company's contract - because the KIDS were misbehaving on the bus and interfering with safety equipment. Whilst more bizarrely suggesting the children on that bus should have even more 'rights'(!).....So long as immature anarchy rules in these situations the bullying will indeed thrive!

Time for a rethink - introducing on bus supervision whilst also restoring some discipline and common sense (on and off board) I maintain would be a good place to start.
[quote][p][bold]ragj195[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]muscliffman[/bold] wrote: This tragic incident highlights a particular transport problem that has been swept under the carpet for far too long. Because in the main children travelling in large numbers often exceeding seventy or more at a time on commercial, private and local authority school buses are usually completely unsupervised. Basically this happens now because nobody wants to pay for it. We cannot reasonably expect the drivers of these school buses/coaches to be able to have any journey time influence whatsoever upon the conduct of the children on board, especially as they already have more than enough on their plate concentrating upon proceeding safely along busy roads and to a timetable. We can only imagine the reaction of the Teachers and their Unions if it were suggested they take responsibility for and sole charge of classes exceeding sixty children and whilst doing so drive them all several miles along busy roads at 30mph in buses. But this is exactly what is expected of our school bus drivers at present. The only proper solution to this problem is to reintroduce empowered adult supervision on school buses (Conductors we used to call them!) to monitor behaviour and indeed to ensure compliance with safety issues such as the wearing of seat belts - nowadays quite often provided, but very rarely used by the kids. This little boy might still be with us if an adult had seen what was happening on that bus and followed it up, but being realistic there is no possible way the bus driver could ever have been that person. .[/p][/quote]You haven't had much interaction with the youth of today if you think a bus conductor would make a difference. Hearing a pupil tell a teacher to f off isn't unusual and that's coming from 10 year old kids in primary school! What do you think they would say to a bus conductor when told to buckle up?[/p][/quote]I actually agree, at one time the bus driver and conductor/clippie was respected and even feared on the school run, but I am sure that this would not be the case today. School bus driver's today are routinely told to **** off and badly behaved kids are becoming well versed in what happens to their stricter bus drivers if children make malicious and totally unfounded allegations about them - the child is automatically believed prior to any investigation and the driver immediately suspended and treated by all Parties as if already proven guilty (Most Local Authorities default policy) The supervision I suggest would therefore have to only observe and report and would certainly be in no position to clip kids round the ear, as would have very effectively happened in the past. But you can see even within these comments where the basic public/parent attitude problems can arise, with odd suggestions to cancel a Bus Company's contract - because the KIDS were misbehaving on the bus and interfering with safety equipment. Whilst more bizarrely suggesting the children on that bus should have even more 'rights'(!).....So long as immature anarchy rules in these situations the bullying will indeed thrive! Time for a rethink - introducing on bus supervision whilst also restoring some discipline and common sense (on and off board) I maintain would be a good place to start. muscliffman
  • Score: 4

8:53am Tue 1 Apr 14

uponthevoid says...

I used to cycle 14 miles every day to school and back to avoid getting the bus. When I did I witnessed a lot of bullying, homemade flame throwers with aerosol cans, fire crackers being set off amongst other things and then bus driver just carried on as normal.
I used to cycle 14 miles every day to school and back to avoid getting the bus. When I did I witnessed a lot of bullying, homemade flame throwers with aerosol cans, fire crackers being set off amongst other things and then bus driver just carried on as normal. uponthevoid
  • Score: 1

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