A MELBOURNE high school student who attempted to commit suicide after years of homophobic bullying has created a Change.org petition calling on Victorian Education Minister James Merlino to provide teens with free counselling services.
Former Somerville Secondary College student Nathan Whitmore, 15, said he was verbally abused on a daily basis.
“It was very traumatic, and it made me resort to self-harm and attempted suicide,” Whitmore told the Star Observer.
“I recently learned just how many people are struggling through bullying like this and not many people have the voice to do something about it.
“I’m still suffering through it and see a psychologist, which is the whole reason I started the petition.”
Whitmore started his petition three weeks ago, and at the time of print it had already garnered 35,754 signatures.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull recently announced an investigation into the Safe Schools Coalition and its education programs around LGBTI inclusion.
Whitmore said his experience highlighted the necessity of the program.
“They’re thinking of taking away Safe Schools and that program is a really big help towards anti-bullying, so my mum and I are fighting for that as well,” he said.
“The whole time I was getting bullied I kept being told to get over it and suck it up, and that’s happening to a lot of people.
“I want him [education minister] to know something has to be done.”
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Whitmore’s mother Cathilee said it broke her heart to see what her son experienced, particularly as no support was provided by the school or the police.
“The principal was trying to push us out of the school for a long time, because it seemed easier for him to deal with us than to deal with the bully and his mother,” she told the Star Observer.
“Nathan also put in a complaint to the police after the skateboard incident and nothing happened… then we put in a complaint about the bully stalking him, with proof that he had been doing so for months, but the police said ‘we’ll just give him a caution’.
“That really kicked Nathan in the guts because he wasn’t even able to go to court and have his say – there are children who have stolen a slab of beer who end up in court but when people bully a child to the point that he wants to end his life, the police just put it away and forget about it.”
While Whitmore’s new high school has a strict anti-bullying policy and he hasn’t faced the same discrimination, Cathilee said schools across the board needed to be harsher with their punishments.
“Kids need to know that it’s not acceptable to call another child a ‘faggot’,” she said.
“Fair enough if you give them a warning after doing it once, but this was happening daily and the children knew nothing was going to be done about it so that’s why they did what they did.
“I’ve read comments on the petition where people who are now 70 are still suffering because they were bullied in school.
“I don’t choose for Nathan to go to school, he has to be there – and you expect them to be in a safe and happy environment, not somewhere where they’re told to go home and kill themselves.”
The office of Education Minister James Merlino has been contacted for comment.
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