News

School 'failed to stop bullies'

AT ODDS: Justine Kelly, the mother of Alex Wildman, and Pastor Gary Dronfield outside the Ballina Courthouse yesterday.
AT ODDS: Justine Kelly, the mother of Alex Wildman, and Pastor Gary Dronfield outside the Ballina Courthouse yesterday. Jacklyn Wagner

ALEX WILDMAN'S school principal and deputy admitted days after the bullied teenager committed suicide he might still be alive if the school had handled his case differently, his mother said yesterday.

On the emotional second day of an inquest into the 14-year-old's death and the circumstances leading to the fateful night in July 2008, Justine Kelly said Kadina High School's then principal Stephen Lowndes and deputy Bradd Farrell had visited her home in Goonellabah.

“They came in the afternoon and we were speaking out the back,” she told the inquest.

“I said to them, had they handled things differently would Alex still be alive? They agreed.”

Mrs Kelly also said Mr Farrell had earlier discouraged her, against her instincts, from reporting a punching assault on her son on school grounds less than two days before Alex took his own life.

“He said to us if you contact the police the matter will escalate, which left us feeling as though we had to look for alternative solutions,” she said.

Mr Farrell had also rejected the idea of mediation between the students, their parents and the school, Mrs Kelly told the inquest.

She detailed two incidents - one where Alex was shoulder-charged and another in which he was punched in the nose and threatened - that occurred outside school grounds in the weeks before he died.

The court yesterday saw footage, taken from Alex's mobile phone, of violent punches being thrown by one young person at another's head in what appears to be school grounds.

Although the people in the video have not been officially identified, Mrs Kelly said she had viewed the footage closely and believed the victim - who did not retaliate - was her son and that the incident was filmed less than two days before he died.

She said she had informed Kadina High when she enrolled Alex at the beginning of 2008 that he had experienced bullying at other schools in Sydney, including an incident at Ingleburn High School where a knife was held to his stomach, and that a gang of some 50 students was 'after him'.

“I gave him (deputy principal Bradd Farrell) a rundown of Alex's history at Ingleburn and what had taken place there - the bullying that had taken place there,” she told the inquest at Ballina.

The school has told police Alex did not 'come under notice' until the day of the assault prior to his suicide.

Mrs Kelly wept as she described her son as a loving, caring boy who did not want to worry his mum.

A former Kadina High student, who cannot be named for legal reasons, said he had taken Alex to school authorities for advice and support after his friend confided in him he was being bullied.

But under cross examination the student could not recall precisely when he had done this and with whom he spoke.

Another former student told the inquest she had left Kadina High a month after starting there because she was being bullied.

But the education department, whose legal counsel has yet to cross-examine Mrs Kelly, has thrown the mental health of Alex's family into question.

“There's either a bullying problem that follows Alex … through a range of high schools, but as another alternative perhaps there's hypersensitivity within the family that they label as bullying,” Donna Ward said.

Ms Ward raised Alex's stepfather, Bill Kelly's nervous breakdown and his mother's anti-depressant medication during yesterday's proceedings.

The inquest, before Deputy State Coroner Malcolm MacPherson, continues today.

Read more...

'Bullies killed my son': inquest hears


Stay Connected

Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.

MS sufferer pins hopes on Russian stem cell treatment

Barry and Sue Potts are fundraising to pay for her $50,000 treatment for MS.

Couple fundraising for what's hoped will be a life-changing event

Four men have now been charged with drug offences

Up to a kilogram of cocaine and cash has been seized by police in a series of dramatic drug raids across Ballina and Byron Bay.

Four men have been charged with drug offences after arrests

Local Partners

It's time to get your shorts on the big screen

ENTRIES for Flickerfest 2017 and Byron All Shorts are now open

Burns Point: The blessings of filming a movie in Ballina

DRAMA: Actors Ron Kelly, John McNeill and Brad McMurray on a scene of Burns Point, filmed near Ballina.

Chris Blackburn talks about his feature film Burns Point

MS sufferer pins hopes on Russian stem cell treatment

Barry and Sue Potts are fundraising to pay for her $50,000 treatment for MS.

Couple fundraising for what's hoped will be a life-changing event

Four men have now been charged with drug offences

Up to a kilogram of cocaine and cash has been seized by police in a series of dramatic drug raids across Ballina and Byron Bay.

Four men have been charged with drug offences after arrests

Are government staffers talking Wentworth Park sale?

Greyhounds race at the Wentworth Park ahead of the industry's July 2017 shutdown.

No answer on whether government staff discussed Wentworth Parl sale

Justice delayed is justice denied in NSW courts

Court backlogs trigger push for break and enter law change

Communication breakdown in NSW fishing reforms

State-wide commercial fishing industry reforms have left fishers confused about their futures.

Non-English speaking fishers confused at industry-wide reforms

Classic car auction draws buyers from US, Dubai

"He wants everyone to enjoy the cars, the collection got too big'

Bonus point gets Dan and Carleen over the line on The Block

Dan and Carleen in their winning living and dining rooms in a scene from The Block.

BABY boomers win living and dining week as show hits halfway mark.

Olivia Wilde having a girl

Olivia Wilde revealed she is expecting a baby girl.

Michael Palin: Terry Jones dementia is 'painful' to see

Michael Palin has found Terry Jones' decline "painful to watch"

Daniel Radcliffe hoped for haircut anonymity

Radcliffe thought shaving his head would make him more anonymous

Jim Carrey slams 'shameful greed' of lawsuit

Jim Carrey has slammed the "shameful greed" of White's ex-husband.

'Highly unlikely' Brad Pitt will face prosecution

It is highly unlikely that Brad Pitt will be prosecuted

UPDATE: Former rodeo champ's sale rained out, now back on

Larkhill local Ken Consiglio is having an auction of most of the things on his property.

'People kept showing up and we had to turn them away'

Couple build their own 'tiny house' for $45k

Holly Bowen and Oli Bucher built their "tiny house" themselves, only hiring a plumber and an electrician. Photo/supplied

The house, which is built on a trailer and can be towed.

Sunshine Beach property breaks real estate record

The property overlooks Sunshine Beach, as the backyard lawn meets the sand.

Sunshine Beach mansion sale smashes real estate record

SOLD: Historic hotel finds new owner

Post Office Hotel Grafton

Photo Adam Hourigan / The Daily Examiner

Pub in new hands and heading in a brand new direction

Peppers Airlie Beach put on the market

ON THE MARKET: Peppers Airlie Beach is being for recievership sale by CBRE Hotels and PRD Nationwide Airlie Beach.

Peppers Airlie Beach is being offered for sale.

3500 jobs on the way with new $950 million resort

Residential, tourist, community, and open space on Hummock Hill Island.

PROPERTY developers plan to begin construction next year.