Father of suicide teenager addresses homophobic bullying conference

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The father of a 15-year-old boy who killed himself after apparently suffering bullying has called on schools and the government to make a number of changes.

Roger Crouch was speaking at the Stonewall Education for All conference on Friday and said that schools must treat rumours and teasing as bullying, rather than ‘banter’.

His son Dominic died after jumping from a roof near his Cheltenham school last May. The boy had left the school during lunchtime and his absence was not noted.

He had texted 999 in an apparent cry for help but the service was designed only for registered users.

In suicide notes, Dominic said he had been bullied and Mr Crouch was later told that his son may have been teased for kissing a boy during a game of ‘spin the bottle’ on a recent school trip.

Mr Crouch, a former local authority Director of Children Services, told conference delegates that schools must do more to look out for signs of bullying and be aware of students who appear distracted or distressed.

He added that schools must ensure anti-bullying policies are used and young people should be taught coping strategies.

Mr Crouch also called on the government to adopt a “victim-centred” definition of bullying.

Describing evidence presented at the inquest of his son’s death, Mr Crouch said: “It is clear that the banter and rumours were based on Dom’s alleged sexuality.”

He added: “Some maintain that mystery still surrounds Dominic’s death. The coroner seemed baffled by it. Others have rightly emphasised the critical role of homophobic bullying.

“There’s no real mystery around why Dom was driven to take his own life. He was desperate that his happiness after the residential trip was punctured by rumours and being the butt of jokes. Over a single morning he felt he went from hero to zero. He over reacted to this – as teenagers will – but no one noticed or acted on his upset and absence until it was too late.

“So when his 999 text, his cry for help, went unheeded, he scribbled his notes and threw himself off the roof in the last rugby tackle he would ever make. The real tragedy is not just that he died; it’s that his death was preventable.”