School’s failure to monitor internet use contributed to girl’s suicide, coroner rules

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The school’s failure to adequately monitor an autistic teenager’s Internet activity “contributed” to her suicide, a coroner has concluded.

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Francis-Rose Thomas, better known as Frankie, was 15 years old when she took her own life on 25 September 2018 at home in Witley, Surrey.

This is when he read a story on an iPad at his special educational needs (SEN) school about a character who dies by suicide.


An investigation into her computer use after her death found that she was able to access material related to self-harm and suicide within a few months, as the Stepping Stones School in Hindhead had no Internet filter for the device, inquired. I was heard.

On the day he died, he had more than two hours of internet access on an iPad.

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This is despite the fact that a “bespoke education plan” was implemented at the school – now known as Undershaw – to prevent her from unfiltered access to the Internet.

Reading her findings at Woking Coroner’s Court on Wednesday, Coroner Karen Henderson said she believed Frankie was influenced by the stories she read online, and that she was portrayed as a “naive” teenager with “complicated needs.” described in.

She explained in question: “Francis-Rose Thomas had several underlying vulnerabilities, including significant childhood trauma, high-functioning autism, and impulsivity.

“She died at 6.57 pm on 25 September 2018 after being found unresponsive at the Royal Surrey County Hospital … at her home address around 5 pm on the same day, an hour after she was last alive.

“On the day of her death, Francis had unrestricted access to the Internet at school and in the absence of any effective e-security monitoring system and personal supervision, she sought out stories about members of her favorite bands featuring suicidal acts. and read them.

“He left a note announcing his intention to end his life.”

Ms Henderson said she was satisfied that allowing Frankie unfiltered access to the Internet was a “massive and systemic failure on the part of the school”.

She also said: “While no one but Frankie knew he had access to these websites, the systems were inadequate.

“It was necessary for the school and his family to know the opportunity at the earliest.

“Frankie explicitly and deliberately sought out these sites, although the school’s e-security monitoring system did not prevent this access.”

Ms Henderson called on the Department of Education (DFE) to implement the rules that every educational institution must follow.

Frankie’s parents, Judy and Andy Thomas, also said the government should take a stronger stance to ensure that the protection of pupils from harm online is standardized in all schools.

The couple who adopted Frankie at the age of eight months controlled Frankie’s access to the Internet at home.

After questioning he said: “Frankie was such a big part of our lives and it was an absolute privilege to be her parent and we were so proud of her.

“He had so much potential and we had 100% faith in him. She was seriously unique and we miss her so much and still can’t believe she is gone.

“We were really horrified when we learned that Frankie had access to online material at school where we assumed she would be kept safe.

“We believe that Frankie’s access to harmful material ultimately led to his death.

“We urge all schools, especially those that cater to children with special educational needs, to ensure they have the highest level of filtering on their devices.

“This should block access to hazardous material and immediately alert delegated staff to access attempts, who can then follow up with the student concerned and their parents or caregivers. should also be monitored.”

A government spokesman said its statutory safety guidance “details” how DFE expects all schools to “protect students from potentially harmful online content, such as suicide or self-harming content”.

If you are experiencing feelings of distress and isolation, or are struggling to cope, Samaritans offer support; You can talk to someone over the phone, with confidence, for free at 116 123 (UK & ROI), email [email protected], or visit the Samaritans website to get details of your nearest branch.

For services local to you, the national mental health database—Hub of Hope—allows you to enter your postcode to search for organizations and charities that provide mental health advice and support in your area.


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