Tracy’s plea on Dolly tragedy: ‘They are kids too’
THE story of how a tough-as-nails outback Aussie kid was hounded to her death by disgusting bullying is so harrowing that every parent should hear about it.
Tracy Grimshaw has heard a few heartwrenching stories in her time, when the parents of Amy Jayne Everett - known as Dolly - told her what happened to her daughter, it clearly left a devastating impact on her.
Shaken up by what she heard and the fierce online debate following the heartbreaking interview - which aired on Tuesday night's A Current Affair - the celebrated journalist made a desperate plea.
Staring down the lens of the camera, she called on viewers not to turn on Dolly's bullies - reminding them: "They are kids too".
Grimshaw begged politicians to create a uniform system to tackle the scourge of bullying and cyberbullying in Australian schools.
"Dolly was a clever, gregarious outback kid a long way from her Northern Territory home, trying to fit in at boarding school in Queensland," she began. "She was bullied.
"She got suspended a couple of times and ultimately developed an anxiety disorder which needed psychological treatment.
"A lot of you turned your comments on the bullies, but please remember that they are kids too - they all read social media.
"That's a key point of this. It's not for adults to get involved in a verbal pile-on against a bunch of schoolkids.
"The time for adults to address school bullying and cyberbullying is when it starts. It's happening right now to hundreds of Australian kids and it's happening in hundreds of schools.
"We know Dolly's story has started you talking. It's what Tick and Kate hoped for when they spoke up.
"I've had so many friends tell me about their own experiences navigating bullied kids through schools. I've read your comments on our social media pages about your kids and their schools.
"There are good stories and bad ones. And that's the problem, isn't it? There needs to be a uniform system that every Australian school adheres to for discipline and counselling if we are ever going to address bullying; one common protocol for discipline and counselling that every parent of either bully or victim and every teacher is committed to."
On Wednesday, the Queensland boarding school once attended by Dolly responded to claims it failed in its duty of care to protect the 14-year-old from being bullied before she took her own life.
The young teenager, who lived on a remote cattle station in the Northern Territory and went to Scots PGC College in Warwick, Queensland, was relentlessly bullied by other students in the lead up to her death, in January this year.
Tracy took aim at the school directly, asking why the school reportedly refused to let Dolly's sister Meg return this year and called out its principal for not agreeing to be interviewed on A Current Affair.
Social media platforms were inundated with comments from users who accused the school of failing in its duty of care by not doing enough to stop the bullying Dolly was enduring.
"Dolly was sent to a private boarding school, her family were paying a school to take care of their daughter," one person wrote on Facebook.
"Everyone - teachers, dorm mistresses, sports coaches, chaplains, even the school medical staff - are there to educate and nurture the students.
"The school and the bullies should be held accountable," a second person posted.
Hundreds of posts with similar sentiments lit up Facebook after the program aired.
The Australian reported that Scots PGC College principal Kyle Thompson was understood to be spending time with upset students, following revelations of Dolly's troubles at the Warwick school before she took her own life.
One staff member told the newspaper: "Today's priority for us is looking after a lot of upset kids … There are a lot of kids here we need to take care of."
In a statement issued to news.com.au, Mr Thompson said staff and students were "deeply saddened" by Dolly's death.
"Our thoughts continue to be with Dolly's family, friends and all those impacted by this tragic loss. Dolly's passing has affected our community deeply," the statement read.
"During this time, we continue to focus on the welfare of our entire community and in particular, ensuring our students are provided with care and support.
"In addition to providing ongoing access to professional support services, we continue to follow guidelines established by leading authorities and mental health experts, such as Mindframe, Headspace and the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists, as to how we communicate with our community during this time.
"We are conscious of the challenges and possible ongoing impact on other young people and families in regards to commenting on suicide.
"As the matter is also the subject of a Northern Territory Police investigation we must respect this process and therefore we are unable to make any further comment."
While any future changes will come too late for Dolly, it's something that her parents want implemented for bullied students who still have a chance of being helped.
The Everetts are in the final stages of setting up a new charity, Dolly's Dream, four months after their daughter took her life on the family's remote NT property.
The foundation will pursue a national approach to bullying and cybersafety in schools and urge those across Australia to adopt a national "blue heart" rating system that will reflect the strength of prevention and response strategies.
- with Megan Palin
For more information on bullying and the Dolly's Dream Foundation visit www.amf.org.au.