School overdose tragedy comes amid bullying claims
THE Gold Coast private college at the centre of a mass schoolyard drug overdose had the recent tragic death of 17-year-old senior vice-captain and has a bullying culture, a parent has claimed.
Seven students, believed to be all boys, were in hospital, with some still fighting for their lives.
The teenagers collapsed at St Stephen's College on Wednesday after ingesting a substance believed to be the Russian designer drug Phenibut.
It comes just over three weeks since another tragedy at the exclusive St Stephen's College in Upper Coomera, 20km northwest of Surfers Paradise, when students were shocked to learn the college's senior vice-captain, Brittany Hills, had been found dead near a bridge at Paradise Point, 14km from the school.
Police deemed the death of the popular Year 12 student, described in a school Facebook post by the principal Jamie Dorrington as "generous, enthusiastic ... much loved and admired young lady", was not suspicious and drugs were not involved.
Following Wednesday's group drug overdose in the school's lunch hour, a parent of two former St Stephen's pupils claimed on Facebook her son and daughter had been bullied.
"Our eldest boy was a victim of random, unprovoked punch (for having blonde hair, so we later found out!) and our middle girl (aged just six at the time) was attacked by an adult on school grounds," the parent wrote on Facebook.
"Our girl was extremely/chronically shy, you could hardly get a word out of her, even at home.
"This adult hissed in her face and verbally abused and grabbed her as she was supposed to have said 'something' to another girl, which is nigh on impossible if you knew our daughter.
"I approached the woman and firmly but quietly, told her to never go near my children again and for that WE were ostracised.
"The school ... ignored and glossed over both matters.
"Our children attend another private school on the coast and they are blooming and love their school."
On Wednesday, following the mass schoolyard overdose, Mr Dorrington wrote on the school's Facebook page that media reports of the incident were "an exaggeration".
"While this is obviously of concern to me, it does allow me to reassure you that their illness was not due to anything contagious," Mr Dorrington posted.
The remark incited anger in some parents who responded to the post on Wednesday night.
"My son knows all of those boys and by no means is the media exaggerating," wrote one woman.
"It saddens me that the statement made above is focused on how the school did the right thing by the students, but how nothing was mentioned about the thoughts and prayers for the parents and students at this sad time.
"It is not about making the school look good is it about the poor families suffering and having to deal with such a distressing situation.
"(Knowing) some of the boys and parents I cannot imagine what they are going through. "Boys be strong!!"
Another woman wrote: "And how they call the reporting an exaggeration? Wow! Take ownership of what happened under your own roof!"
An hour after the comments were posted St Stephen's closed down the discussion, saying: "Comments have been turned off out of respect for those involved and their families."
Four of the seven boys ingested the drug are believed to be in a critical condition in hospital.
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