By Lesley Podesta
At the end of a year that saw so much high-profile discussion about children’s rights to feel safe, how tragic it is that we find ourselves mourning the suicide of young Queenslander Tyrone Unsworth, and asking how his death could have been prevented.
Tyrone’s loss is a devastating reminder about the urgent need to change the way we manage bullying in our schools.
Tyrone was a 13-year-old Brisbane boy who tragically saw no other choice but to take his life after years of incessant homophobic bullying.
I was shocked to read that only a month prior to his death, he was assaulted by another student with a fence paling, outside school hours.
But what made my heart sink even further was reading that the day before he took his own life, he told a friend that his school did not care.
Why did Tyrone think his school didn’t care?
The school has since admitted it was aware of the assault but was unaware of the consistent bullying suffered by Tyrone. And, if the school genuinely didn’t know about the bullying, why didn’t it know?
The resulting tragedy highlights that Tyrone’s school community was ill-equipped to identify and address the abuse which ultimately lead to his tragic suicide.
This incident highlights the need to support our hard-working teachers so that they can support children who are traumatised by violence and bullying, both after hours and in the schoolyard. It highlights the need to talk about respect, tolerance and friendship.
The truth is we all played a role in the death of this young man, and we all have a burden to bear.
We all play a role. Our schoolyards mirror the values of our community, our children reflect the world around them. We need to understand the consequences of the discussions we have, at the kitchen table, in the staff room and in the office.
Many people say that “bullying is just part of growing up”. This is wrong.
Bullying is not testing boundaries or healthy competition between peers.
Bullying is an ongoing misuse of power in relationships through repeated aggressive verbal, physical and/or social behaviour on or offline that intends to cause physical and/or psychological harm, distress or fear. It can involve an individual or a group misusing their power over one or more persons. Bullying can happen in person or online, and it can be obvious (overt) or hidden (covert).