Tearful Shy Keenan tells how she could not protect son Ayden who suffered years of abuse at school over his sexuality
The son of a prominent child abuse campaigner killed himself after revealing that he was gay and being “bullied to death” at school, an inquest heard.
Ayden Keenan-Olson, 14, took his own life three months after telling his family he was homosexual and after suffering years of verbal and physical abuse by pupils at school who thought he was gay.
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His mother, campaigner and author Shy Keenan, said he had “found someone he thought he loved” but it was not reciprocated.
Following the inquest, Mrs Keenan called for suicide websites to be banned after it emerged the teenager had researched how to take his own life in the month leading up to his death.
Earlier she had told the hearing her son had been “bullied to death”, adding: “My job is to protect kids online but I could not keep my own son safe.”
Ayden was found dead in his bed by his father, Tim Olson, at the family home in Colchester, Essex, on March 14.
He had taken an overdose of prescription drugs and left two suicide notes outlining the homophobic and racist bullying he had experienced at the town’s Philip Morant School, the inquest in Chelmsford heard.
Essex coroner Caroline Beasley-Murray recorded a verdict of suicide but said it was not her job to attribute blame and made no finding regarding bullying or the school’s conduct.
A police investigation found that, in the month leading up to his death, Ayden had bypassed settings on his computer to research suicide methods on the Internet.
Mrs Keenan said she and fellow campaigner Dr Sara Payne would lobby for a new law to safeguard children online.
She said hoped to meet with Google bosses to discuss the issue, adding: “We have to change the laws in this country to protect children.
“We must remove suicide websites from the Internet – it’s got to happen. We can’t have young people taking their own lives whenever they face problems or difficulties.”
Mrs Beasley-Murray said: “The court regrets the influence that such sites have on young people.”
The inquest heard Ayden had attempted to take his own life six months earlier and the family believe he took prescription drugs from home and hid them at school.
The school’s head teacher confirmed Ayden reported up to 20 incidents of bullying since joining the school in 2010
Mrs Keenan, who was escorted by her husband and Dr Payne, told the hearing her son had been bullied for several years and previously attempted to take his life in October last year.
Breaking down in tears during her evidence, she said her son had been targeted with violence, abuse and malicious allegations because fellow pupils believed he was gay and because he had part-Japanese ethnicity.
Shortly before Christmas he told his family he thought he was gay.
Mrs Keenan said: “He said he was gay and had found somebody he thought he loved but it was not reciprocated. We didn’t care, we just loved him whatever.
“After Christmas it was like talking to a different boy – since he was able to say out loud to people that he was gay.”
She described Ayden as a sensitive child who had planned to start his own anti-bullying campaign. He was a keen musician and idolised television presenter Gok Wan.
“People would call him Gok as a compliment,” she said. “He tried very hard to look like him.”
Giving evidence, acting head teacher Robert James defended the school’s policies for dealing with bullying.
“As a school, our first priority is to make sure our students are safe,” he said.
“We very much share the coroner’s concerns about the influence of suicide sites on impressionable young people.”
by Tom Whitehead
Source – The Telegraph