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.”