Dutch school threatened over death of bullied Lankan teen

A school in the Netherlands is facing threats after a Sri Lankan teen committed suicide after being bullied in school.

The Heerlen police have arranged extra protection for the Grotius College and its school grounds. The College’s director, teachers and students received threats in response to the suicide of 15-year-old student Tharukshan Selvam on Sunday, the NL Times reported.

Tharukshan died during the early hours of Sunday morning. His family published his suicide note, in which he described how he was being bullied at school. He was also being harassed by anonymous social media accounts, believed to be the work of his class mates.

The Sri Lankan’ teen’s story provoked numerous threats and death treats addressed to the director of Grotius College, several teachers and students. The condolence register the school opened on Wednesday was flooded with responses from across the country. “You should be deeply ashamed, students and school”, “Bullies of Tharukshan: you should be deeply ashamed”, “How could this happen?” and “This could have been avoided”, were just some of the responses.

Frank Schings, director of school organization LVO Parkstad, under which Grotius College falls, announced that the circumstances of the boy’s suicide will be investigated. Later on Wednesday the school leaders announced in a press conference that they have asked the Inspectorates for both Education and Youth Care to investigate what happened, according to NU.nl. Heerlen Mayor Ralf Krewinkel will also investigate. The Mayor’s investigation will also look into the role of youth care and other health institutions in what happened to Tharukshan.

It is known that both school and municipality had contact with the Selvam family. According to Schings at the press conference, a municipal expertise center first spoke to Tharukshan on December 5th due to the bullying. After that the 15-year-old boy spoke to aid workers on December 28th.

Minister Jet Bussemaker of Education responded to Tharukshan’s suicide on television program Jinek on Wednesday evening. She called the death of the Sri Lankan boy “heartbreaking” and called on everyone not to turn a blind eye to bullying. “Do not look away from abuses. If you notice something in your surroundings, report it, discuss it”, she said. “And if you can’t do so yourself, make sure that experts are involved.”

Education State Secretary Sander Dekker also responded to the boy’s death. “Heartbreaking. There is no other word for the suicide of 15-year-old Tharukshan from Heerlen.” he wrote on his Facebook page. According to Dekker, Tharukshan’s death is reminiscent of the deaths of 20-year-old Tim Ribberink and 15-year-old Fleur Bloemen, who both committed suicide in 2012 after continuing bullying. “It shows again that the consequences of bullying can be enormous. We must always remain vigilant that it does not rear its ugly head. And we must continue to emphasize that bullying is unacceptable.”

Tharukshan’s family describes him as a cheerful boy who always put on a brave face for the outside world, his brother in law Mayruam Sellathurai said to De Limburger, speaking on behalf of the family. At home Tharukshan liked to listen to music, talk with his family members and play some cards. The night of his death they also played cards before going to bed. “I noticed nothing wrong with him. In fact, he was cheerful”, Sellathurai said. A few hours later, Tharukshan’s family found him dead in his bedroom.

The Sri Lankan family arrived in the Netherlands about six years ago. They fled Sri Lanka because of the conflict there at the time, but also because the children had a better future in the Netherlands, Sellathurai said. Tharukshan went to primary school in Heerlen and quickly adjusted to life in his new home. He got good grades and made friends.

Tharukshan’s family was flooded with reactions over the past days. “We are trying to get his grandmother from Sri Lanka here for a dignified farewell. He never went back to Sri Lanka. He would have gone for the first time this year, go back and visit his family in his native country during his vacation. A trip he will now never make. That hurts. His grandmother has to instead, with the memories of her grandson. She is devastated. We are too. This should never have happened.” Sellathurai said. (Colombo Gazette)


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