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Bully victim findings released

Alex Wildman
Alex Wildman

DEPUTY State Coroner Malcolm MacPherson has called for more school counsellors in schools and policies on bullying to be revised after the death of teenager Alex Wildman.

A NSW Coroner handed down his findings just after 1pm into the death of Lismore teenager Alex Wildman, who was found dead in the garage of his Goonellabah home on July 25, 2008.

Alex, 14, a student at Kadina High School, committed suicide and the inquest into his death last year attracted national publicity with allegations the teenager had been subjected to on-going school bullying and lived in fear.

Mr MacPherson delivered his findings in the Glebe Coroner’s Court in Sydney, with a video link-up to a courtroom at the Lismore Courthouse to allow the Wildman family and friends to attend.

He confirmed Alex had taken his own life and had been the victim of significant bullying, both physically and online, and both at previous schools in Sydney and as a student at Kadina High School.

He said Alex had not been seen by a school counsellor and his  teachers at Kadina had not been told about previous bullying  incidents in Sydney.

Among his recommendations, Mr MacPherson said the NSW Department of Education should revise policies to make them very clear in regards to the placement of the number of sufficient school councellors in large schools, such as Kadina High School, with 500 or more students.

He also said there was a need for a dedicated email address or chatroom account to be set up by the schools to allow students to record incidents of bullying and harrassment.

Students trasferred between schools should also have compulsory meetings between principals, student counsellors and year advisors with regard to any issues with a student, incluiding behavioural, incidents of self harm or bullying.

Mr MacPherson added policies needed to be revised with regard to when police should be contacted by the schools in regard to threats, bullying, intimidation and harrassment from students on students, whether by phone or over the internet.

During an extensive inquest in Ballina last year, it was revealed the Year 9 student was repeatedly punched in the head two days before his death, with the assault recorded on a mobile phone.

The inquest heard that on the day his body was found Alex had been due to take part in an organised fight.

Evidence from Kadina High School deputy principal Bradd Farrell was that he did not believe the video footage, that he ordered to be deleted from a student’s mobile phone, was serious enough to be taken to the police.

Alex’s mother, Justine Kelly, had also raised concerns about her son being bullied at a Sydney school during her son’s enrolment interview for Kadina High School.

Mrs Kelly told police on the morning she discovered her son’s body that ‘he was bullied at school and this is why he is dead’.

Counsel assisting the coroner, Peter Hamill SC, said last October Alex was also being bullied on the internet and been bashed in the weeks leading up to his death.

The inquest probed the systems the school and teachers had in place to deal with bullying. Mr Hamill said then that issues raised may lead the inquest to some conclusions as to whether or not there were systematic failures which may have contributed to the schoolboy’s death.

Alex was described as complex, sensitive and intelligent, and his mother said during the proceedings she hoped the inquest would lead to changes in education department guidelines on bullying.

Readers seeking support and information about suicide  prevention can contact Lifeline on 131114 or SANE Helpline on 1800  18 SANE (7263).AAP sg/tr/jsh/mn 17-06-10 1322