Bullying suicide sparks school changes

Students transferring schools mid-term will be required to sit down with a counsellor under changes to be introduced by the NSW government after the suicide of bullied schoolboy Alex Wildman.

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The 14-year-old took his life on July 25, 2008 at his family’s home at Goonellabah, near Lismore, after being beaten and bullied by other pupils at Kadina High School.

Following an inquest into his death in Ballina earlier this month, Deputy State Coroner Malcolm MacPherson made a series of recommendations.

On Wednesday, Education Minister Verity Firth signalled that many of these, including an enrolment policy for students who transfer, will be put in place.

In his findings, Mr MacPherson said Alex had not been seen by a school counsellor, who worked part time and was not at Kadina on the days leading up to the boy’s death.

His teachers did not know of the bullying and had not been told about previous incidents at his former Sydney school.

Alex, described as a “highly intelligent and sensitive young man”, endured attacks and threats at Ingleburn High School in 2007 and the bullying started again when he moved to Kadina.

He was assaulted several times and taunted and threatened by other pupils on the internet, the inquest heard.

Ms Firth said a review of school counselling services in public schools was already under way. The Education Department would also trial at several schools a dedicated email address to which students can report bullying.

She has also instructed the department to compile a concise brochure about bullying, after Mr MacPherson recommended that information given to schools about the practice be simplified.

“There will never be a one-size-fits-all response,” she said in a statement.

“It is important that we still allow school communities to develop their own policies, but at the same time make sure that everyone has access to basic and clear information.”

In his findings, Mr MacPherson concluded that although he could not pinpoint a single factor that led to Alex’s suicide, bullying contributed.

Two days before his mother found him dead in the garage of the family home, he had been hit on the face and head during an attack at the school, which was filmed on a mobile phone.