Inquest examines claims school was not a safe place for Year 9 student

Claire Halliday
Claire Halliday
At an inquest into a boy's death, a mother claims shcool leadership should have done more to keep her son safe.
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A three-day inquest, expected to end today, has been told a “kind and gentle” teenager who took his own life had been bullied and assaulted and didn’t feel safe at school.

Year nine student Silas Eben Paul, 14, died in hospital on April 8, 2022, after the teenager was found unconscious at his home in the Hobart suburb of Lauderdale.

The inquest, which began on Wednesday, 3 April, has examined reporting obligations and information sharing between officials.

Online bullying and violent assaults led to suicide

Silas had suffered online bullying and had also been physically assaulted several times by his peers, as well as older children, including a 17-year-old, the inquest was told.

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“He was the kid being picked on by a group of guys that were, for whatever reason, out to get him,” his dad, Simon Paul, said.

The boy’s mother Sylvia Nielsen said that her own experiences as a student at Taroona High made her worried about her son attending.

Ms Nielson said on the day of his death, Silas couldn’t get on the bus “to spend even one more day at Taroona High School”.

“I didn’t want him to go to Taroona because he was a similar character to me, and I didn’t have confidence that Taroona would have changed in the 30 years since I’d been there,” she said.

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Taroona High School Picture: Linda Higginson

Mother says school leadership should have done more to keep son safe

Ms Nielsen said Silas suffered a swollen nose and black eye during an assault in the Hobart CBD in 2021.

“His choice to end his life was (an) act of last resort given he wasn’t safe at school,” she said, adding her belief that adults who were in positions of power should have done more to protect the boy.

Ms Nielsen described her son as kind, gentle and easygoing, with a great sense of humour. She said teachers described him as an asset in class.

She listed his extensive hobbies including bushwalking, cooking, fishing and being on the water.

“He really cared about people and was always the one to give me a hug every morning … he was such a joy,” she said.

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Silas’ father, Mr Paul, said the boy was witty, and was also popular with girls – attention that made his son a target.

“He will be forever in our hearts. He deserved better than what happened,” Mr Paul said.

If you need someone to talk to, call:

Lifeline on 13 11 14

Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800

Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467

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Beyond Blue on 1300 22 46 36

Headspace on 1800 650 890

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Claire Halliday has an extensive career as a full-time writer - across book publishing, copywriting, podcasting and feature journalism - for more than 25 years. She lives in Melbourne with children, two border collies and a grumpy Burmese cat. Contact: claire.halliday[at]brandx.live