Kadina doesn’t deserve bad press
The two captain elects of Kadina High School believe their school has been unfairly portrayed in the media recently, and have spoken out in support of what they describe as a school community that’s “like a family”.
Charlotte Pearce and Drew Skimmings, both in Year 11, say students were devastated by the death of 14-year-old Alex Wildman in July last year and the subsequent coronial inquest in Ballina recently surrounding the boy’s suicide. They say the media staking out the school and splashing photos of their teachers across newspaper front pages is making it difficult for students to cope.
“The whole school community has been shaken by this – it’s been horrific for all of us to go through, let alone dealing with this media backlash where they are attacking the people who are there to support us,” Drew said. “We know the inquest has to happen and we mean no disrespect to the parents, this must be absolutely harrowing for them, but it’s horrible for us to see Kadina portrayed as this dreadful school.”
The inquest into the death of Alex Wildman raised questions about Alex’s alleged bullying at Kadina and whether the school handled the situation appropriately.
Both Drew and Charlotte feel the negative national media attention Kadina has attracted is unfair, and Drew said when his own sister was bullied the teachers were approachable and dealt with the situation immediately. He describes the school’s welfare system has “excellent and effective”.
“Bullying is not isolated to Kadina – we know it happens in schools and workplaces everywhere,” Charlotte said. “Unfortunately tragedies like this happen and the critical thing is to support one another; tearing each other apart doesn’t achieve anything.”
Drew said Kadina was rare in that students were proud to call it their school.
“And this kind of media attention can really damage a school community – if we have a bad reputation we don’t deserve the numbers might drop and then we’d lose electives and teachers,” Drew said. “All the teachers named in media reports are just so wonderful… I don’t think I’ve ever met a more caring group people.”
“Yeah, they have a real integrity of character,” Charlotte added.
Drew said students doing their HSC were finding it hard to focus on exams with all the media attention, while Charlotte said she was shocked to realise a camera was being pointed at her while she was sitting on the oval recently.
“I just don’t think it had to be as public as it was – the media hype shows a real lack of respect for students at the school,” Drew said. “All the coverage was so one-sided and everyone jumped on the blame wagon without thinking that maybe it would be upsetting for the kids here. Kadina is doing a lot of positive things and I know that 99.9% of students have a wonderful time at this school. Anytime a student suggests a way of making the school better the teachers do it – they don’t just ignore it or fob it off. It’s a really safe, caring community where everyone knows one another, the students and the teachers. It’s like family.”
Drew and Charlotte are both members of the Student Representative Council and are now thinking up ideas for events next year that encourage school spirit and inclusion of every student, so they feel connected and safe in their school environment.
“Later this term we’re going to have Smile Week, and there’s an art and photography competition,” Charlotte said. “We want to have a good time and make everyone smile because we haven’t seen a lot of that around here lately.”