Kirsty Wynn

Kirsty Wynn is a senior reporter at the Herald on Sunday.

School defends suicide debate

Epsom Girls Grammar principal Madeline Gunn. Photo / Supplied
Epsom Girls Grammar principal Madeline Gunn. Photo / Supplied

A school which screened a documentary detailing how a bullied schoolboy killed himself has defended showing the controversial clip.

Epsom Girls Grammar showed the American 20/20 documentary Bully Boy in a compulsory health class last week.

The documentary featured American teenager Tyler Long, who killed himself after being bullied at school. In the documentary, Tyler's father showed how and where his son died.

The Ministry of Health has guidelines for the media when discussing suicide and the Ministry of Education has a similar set for schools. They suggest suicide prevention programmes for students may encourage suicidal behaviour rather than prevent it.

Epsom Girls Grammar principal Madeleine Gunn said the Auckland school had robust policies around suicide prevention and was aware of ministry reservations.

"We are very conscious of what is said and how suicide prevention is treated but the focus of this documentary was bullying and not suicide.

"This is how bad it can get because of bullying. It is saying we need to take it seriously because this can be the outcome."

One student told the Herald on Sunday she was upset by the documentary but no complaints had been made to the school.

"We have now had this concern expressed and we will look further but we would hope that if someone was concerned they would come to us and talk about it," Gunn said.

Year 12 teacher Chantelle Fisher said she discussed the documentary with the class.

"It was an upsetting documentary but we were not focusing on the suicide," Fisher said.

"They are year 12 so it is an age level that is appropriate."

Gunn said parents were not told the documentary would be shown in class as it had screened on TVNZ a year ago.

"This programme was on TVOne and I think at 8.30pm, so for 16 to 17-year-olds it is not unreasonable. "

The documentary was part of the "Keeping Ourselves Safe" programme that identified different types of abuse. It included bullying and self-defence lessons.

- Herald on Sunday

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf03 at 25 Nov 2014 09:31:33 Processing Time: 320ms