Experts warn of danger posed by school text

Jewel Topsfield A book of gruesome short stories is being taught to 13-year-olds at schools, prompting adolescent health experts to warn it could encourage vulnerable teens to self harm.

A BOOK of gruesome short stories, which includes a task asking students to write two suicide notes, is being taught to 13-year-olds at some schools, prompting adolescent health experts to warn it could encourage vulnerable teens to self harm.

Tracey Young was horrified to learn her daughter’s year 8 English class at Berwick Secondary College would be studying Smithereens, which includes short stories about suicide, the legal killing of homeless children and a man who murders his abusive brother-in-law.

”There is quite a lot of gross details of murders and one of the tasks after a story is for the kids to write practice suicide notes,” Ms Young said.

She said when she raised concerns with Berwick Secondary College, the school said the book was no different from what children watch on television. But, she said, ”you don’t get a choice in the classroom”.

The school’s solution was to pull her daughter out of the class and give her an alternative text, but Ms Young said this made her daughter feel uncomfortable.

Australian Childhood Foundation chief executive Joe Tucci said schools should not be asking students to rehearse potentially harmful behaviour. ”When you encourage adolescents to undertake activities that blur the line between fantasy and reality … it might tip them into undertaking that activity,” he said.

Childhood pyschologist Michael Carr-Gregg said Smithereens should be immediately removed from schools.

”It could give them ideas about self harm and potentially lead them to believe the world is a bleaker, darker, more miserable place than it actually is,” Dr Carr-Gregg said. If a student harmed themselves after reading it, the school could be in breach of its duty of care.

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February 23rd, 2011

Staff Reporter

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