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12-year-old boy took his own life after relentless bullying over his sexuality, inquest hears

Lily Wakefield May 20, 2021
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Boy died by suicide after relentless bullying over his sexuality

Riley Hadley with his older brother Jack.(Facebook/ Jack Holmes)

A 12-year-old schoolboy, who was relentlessly bullied for questioning his sexuality, died by suicide in 2019, an inquest has heard.

Riley Hadley began being bullied when he went into year seven at Sidmouth Community College in Devon, the inquest at Exeter’s County Hall heard, according to DevonLive.

His mother, Alison Holmes, described him as a “gentle” and “caring” child who found it hard to be in large groups.

In the months before Riley died by suicide, he began questioning his sexuality and opened up to his mother about being interested in boys.

Although Holmes supported her son, he began struggling with anxiety and losing sleep. She added: “As he was still young I did not see it as a big concern.”

But it is believed that Riley questioning his sexuality made him a target for bullies, who hounded him in the local park, kicked and pushed him in the corridors at school, and on one occasion kicked him into the road.

“He was afraid to go to school and the local park in fear of being bullied,” said Holmes.

Riley’s mother began homeschooling him in September, 2019, but they discussed him returning to school as Holmes still needed to work.

“He had a cry,” she said. “We talked and he seemed a bit better.”

On the morning of 15 October, 2019, Riley had a doctor’s appointment during which he reported anxiety about returning to school.

On the same day he sent a text to his friend, which read: “I have to come back to school.”

The friend asked why, but Riley never read the message, and took his own life later that day.

Police interviewed students at Sidmouth Community College, who described bullies telling Riley that they wished he were dead, and said he had expressed a desire to self-harm.

Authorities concluded that there was no criminal activity involved, and the inquest confirmed that Riley had died by suicide.

Addressing Riley’s brother Jack, assistant coroner Alison Longhorn said: “It must be heartbreaking to lose someone so young in these circumstances. I can’t imagine how difficult it has been for you all.”

A recent study revealed that almost half (46 per cent) of LGBT+ school students in England do not feel safe to be themselves at school.

LGBT+ education charity Diversity Role Models found that while 54 per cent of secondary school students said that homophobic, biphobic and transphobic language was common at their school, less than a third (32 per cent) of secondary school kids said that staff challenged anti-LGBT+ language.

Suicide is preventable. Readers who are affected by the issues raised in this story are encouraged to contact Samaritans on 116 123 (www.samaritans.org), or Mind on 0300 123 3393 (www.mind.org.uk). ​

Readers in the US are encouraged to contact the National Suicide Prevention Line on 1-800-273-8255.

Related topics: Homophobia, suicide

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