Stalking message coming to schools

THE dangers of stalking will be highlighted in Scottish schools for the first time thanks to a pioneering project devised by pupils.

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  • Ann Moulds, Evening Times Scotswoman of the Year, at Kyle Academy, Ayr with, from left, Aimee McCleary (Belmont Academy), Rebekah Wood (Carrick Academy), PC Derek Simpson, Cameron Kelly (Kyle Academy), Natasha Munro (Belmont Academy), PC Peter Sykes and Rebecca McGinley (Kyle Academy)                           Picture: Colin Mearns
    Ann Moulds, Evening Times Scotswoman of the Year, at Kyle Academy, Ayr with, from left, Aimee McCleary (Belmont Academy), Rebekah Wood (Carrick Academy), PC Derek Simpson, Cameron Kelly (Kyle Academy), Natasha Munro (Belmont Academy), PC Peter Sykes and Rebecca McGinley (Kyle Academy) Picture: Colin Mearns
  • Ann Moulds, Evening Times Scotswoman of the Year, at Kyle Academy, Ayr with, from left, Aimee McCleary (Belmont Academy), Rebekah Wood (Carrick Academy), PC Derek Simpson, Cameron Kelly (Kyle Academy), Natasha Munro (Belmont Academy), PC Peter Sykes and Rebecca McGinley (Kyle Academy) Picture: Colin Mearns

Evening Times Scotswoman of the Year Ann Moulds, who campaigned tirelessly to have stalking recognised as a crime following her own ordeal, is backing the initiative.

A DVD made by high school students, plus training from campus police officers, information leaflets and a lesson plan for secondaries in South Ayrshire will be launched later in the year.

Organisers hope it will inspire other local authorities to follow suit.

Ann said: "This is an incredibly exciting step which brings stalking awareness into schools for the first time. The fantastic work done by pupils in South Ayrshire, with the support of South Ayrshire Multi-Agency Partnership to Tackle Violence Against Women and Children, will hopefully encourage other councils and schools to get involved."

In the run-up to National Stalking Awareness Day on April 24, Ann met with senior pupils involved in the making of the film, Friend Request, which will form part of the training package.

It was written, devised, directed and performed by pupils from all eight South Ayrshire Council secondary schools - Ayr Academy, Prestwick Academy, Belmont Academy, Queen Margaret Academy and Kyle Academy in Ayr, Carrick Academy in Maybole, Girvan Academy, and Marr College in Troon - in conjunction with production company Film School.

It tells the story of a young girl who accepts a friend request from a fellow pupil on a social media site, which quickly develops into something more sinister.

Taking a Sliding Doors-style approach (like the Gwyneth Paltrow parallel reality movie), it follows two storylines - one in which the main character asks for help to deal with the situation, and one where she does not take any action, with dramatically different results.

Friend Request premiered at Queen Margaret Academy in Ayr as part of the 16 Days of Action to End Violence Against Women, which was organised by the South Ayrshire Multi-Agency Partnership (MAP) to Tackle Violence Against Women and Children and the South Ayrshire Child Protection Committee (CPC).

Kevin Quinn, of the CPC, said the film has the potential to make a dramatic difference to young people's lives. He said: "It's a very powerful resource which gets across the message that if you are being stalked, you can get help.

"Our aim is to help young people think about their safety, and Friend Request is a very good way of doing that."

Ann added: "The pupils have put heart and soul into this project. It's a sad fact that bullying is part of the childhood landscape and if left unchecked, it can cross the line into stalking.

"The theme of this year's National Stalking Awareness Day is 'Crossing the Line' and I think Friend Request really demonstrates what happens when behaviours 'cross the line' between acceptable and unacceptable."

Ann was stalked for two years and had to move away from her home, friends and family, losing her business in the process.

She set up Action Scotland Against Stalking and campaigned to have the law changed.Powerful anti-stalking legislation is now in place in Scotland, the rest of the UK and Europe thanks to her efforts.

She was named Evening Times Scotswoman of the Year 2013 for her achievements.

The main character in the Friend Request film is played by 17-year-old Carrick Academy student Rebekah Wood. She said: "It felt weird at first, to play a character who is being stalked.

"My sister was stalked when I was much younger. I was only eight or nine, so it suddenly made me realise a little bit of what she must have been feeling, how scared she must have been."

Cameron Kelly, 17, who is in sixth year at Kyle Academy, also acted in the movie: "We spent almost 10 weeks working on the film, talking about our own experiences and devising the script and characters,.

"It has been very well received, which is great and makes us feel our hard work has been worth it."

Camera crew members Aimee McCleary, 17 and Natasha Munro, 17, who both attend Belmont Academy, believe it's important that young people were involved in making the movie.

Aimee said: "It wasn't about teachers or police officers telling us what to write, it was our thoughts and experiences which drove it all."

Natasha agreed. "It's teenagers speaking to other teenagers and getting an important message across."

Rebecca McGinley, 18, from Kyle Academy, added: "It's really exciting to think our message will get out to so many people, as part of the training package going out to all secondary schools in South Ayrshire and hopefully beyond."

PC Derek Simpson, campus officer at Marr College in Troon, worked closely with the pupils on the film.

He said: "As campus police officers, we deal with bullying and cyberbullying often, and after Ann spoke at Marr College on National Stalking Awareness Day last year, two people came to tell me they thought they were being stalked.

"Friend Request, and the training package, are about highlighting to young people that stalking is a crime, and you don't have to put up with it.

"To have Ann's support is invaluable. The fact that she has turned such a terrible experience into something so positive is incredible.

"She has empowered young people, helping them to understand what behaviours are acceptable, and which ones are not.

"The important message we want to get across is -trust your instincts. If you feel something is wrong, it probably is - so get help."

Education

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