|Portrayed by||Jessica Baglow|
|First Appearance||Series 3 Episode 1|
|Last Appearance||Series 5 Episode 20|
Karla Bentham was a pupil at Waterloo Road from 2007 to 2010. She was 15-years old when she arrived at Waterloo Road after a series of failed attempts at most other schools in the area. She’s a child who was badly let down by the system which failed to diagnose her with Asperger’s syndrome, an Autism Spectrum Disorder, writing her off as a truculent troublemaker.
Before her arrival at Waterloo Road, she was excluded from three schools and the Bentham family eventually cracked under the pressure, with the father walking out on his wife and daughter, unable (or unwilling) to cope any longer. Karla was removed from her last school when mother Annette was given the choice: find another school or face permanent exclusion. However, with teaching assistant Davina Shackleton's help, Karla carved out a place for herself at the school, and despite finding it hard to fit in, found two friends in Danielle Harker and Aleesha Dillon.
Karla’s literal interpretation of simple instructions has always been the fuel for spiteful pranks and easy laughs. Karla has a hard time understanding some displays of affection and gets overwhelmed by physical contact. During her meltdowns, she often hums rapidly as a stim in an attempt to calm herself down.
Karla is very intelligent, and with the right guidance and support has started to do extremely well at school. She enjoys subjects based on logic and reason (particularly maths) and is quite happy ploughing through pages of sums unaided while her peers are left fretfully jabbing at their calculators.
When Karla first arrives at Waterloo Road, she is a girl who is misunderstood and easily set off by the smallest things, but she also is incredibly intelligent. On her first day Grantly Budgen shouts in her face, causing her to experience sensory overload and lash out in self-defence with a chair. Karla continues to be bullied, but over time she makes new friends, particularly Danielle Harker and Aleesha Dillon, and learns to understand things more clearly and join in with class jokes. In episode 9, Karla and Janeece are both digging in the school grounds in search of remains but instead finds something much more disturbing; the remains of Maxine's baby. This puts Karla on edge through the rest of the day. Aleesha and Danielle further trick Karla into starting a distasteful petition to allow the students to continue digging on the school grounds. Eddie Lawson on finding out what has happened bans Aleesha from performing in the school musical and Danielle from the school council saying that bullying in the school won't be tolerated.
In Series 3 Episode 10 Aleesha tries to get her own back on Karla but her and Danielle change their minds after reading what Karla wrote about them in her diary. From this point onwards the three of them are friends.
In episode 20, Karla helps win the school spelling bee against Forest Mount School.
After returning to school, Karla has a much easier year, now supported by a lot of people and now increasingly confident. When her good friend Danielle says her father had been abusing her, Karla and Aleesha remain by her side, and organise a protest to keep Danielle at school, however it was revealed that Danielle lied to increase her chances of staying. This causes a rift between Danielle and Aleesha, but they soon become best friends again.
In episode 12 Karla is shown to have a very good talent for drawing and art, but this day turns out awful for her when Michaela White tricks her for her own gain - she forces Karla to sit in the girls toilets for hours drawing portraits of the pupils, and sells them. All the pressure pushes Karla too far, and she runs out of school towards a busy road, putting herself in danger. Luckily Kim Campbell manages to find her and bring her back to school safely, and Michaela is punished.
On the final day of term, Karla was part of the school choir. They managed to win the competition, and she is seen to be overjoyed along with everybody else.
When Karla returns for her final year, things are very different, as the closure of local private John Fosters forces the 2 schools to merge with disastrous results. When a large brawl takes place in the playground, Karla is seen looking on in horror. When Karla sees Emily James crying she tries to comfort her, but her sister Lindsay sees her as interfering. Lindsay and the John Fosters girl gang attack Karla and she is terrified to return to school, but when she does Lindsay apologises. Michaela White plots revenge on Lindsay saying that it was for Karla when in reality it was an excuse for another fight.
In episode 7, student Cassie Turner claims she is being bullied, but it is a completely different story. Cassie is found crying under the stairs by Karla, who offers to help, but Cassie rejects this gesture. Later on, Cassie leads Karla into the boiler room and becomes more and more paranoid. Karla manages to find her way out with blood on her, and tells Steph and Kim about what happened. Kim and Tom find Cassie still in the boiler room shouting and screaming out loud. After being cleaned up and taken to hospital, she is diagnosed with schizophrenia and is never seen again.
Karla was also part of Michaela's university scheme that all the sixth formers were a part of, she along with a few others manage to get onto the scheme.
- ”It’s polite to knock!” (First line)
- "I don't understand. We all know he doesn't have any hair. Is he just pretending it's grown all of a sudden? Because it's not a very good lie."
- "They were the wrong words!"
- "I'm not a freak."
- "I don't want any more trouble. I told Miss Mason that."
- "He said to wait outside, he didn't say anything about a chair."
- Grantly: "In my class, we don't talk over a reading." Karla: (to Davina) "Well that's a lie, because he's talking now."
- Grantly: "Happy?" Karla: "Not really. But I will see you tomorrow."