Tuesday 23 January 2018

School finds no evidence of 'choking practice'

Denise Clarke

A School has reassured parents that safety is its priority after a coroner expressed concern about the possible existence of a choking 'game' following the death of a student.

Paul Connon (16) of Chestnut Grove, Dunboyne, Co Meath, was found hanging in his wardrobe by his mother last December.

An open verdict was recorded by Dublin County Coroner Dr Kieran Geraghty as it was unclear if the student meant to take his own life or if he had accidentally hanged himself after attempting to temporarily cut off his oxygen supply for a 'kick'.

His family insisted his death was a tragic accident.

Dr Geraghty asked gardai to notify the school of a possible choking trend after Brian Connon (18), a brother of the deceased, explained the concept of the 'American dream' game to the court and said it was common among teenagers.

In a statement to the Irish Independent yesterday, principal of St Peter's College in Dunboyne, Eamonn Gaffney, said the impact of Mr Connon's death is something the school community continues to deal with.

"I can assure parents of students in St Peter's College that student safety is and always will be our priority. They are aware of this from our record in the past and can be assured of our continued vigilance for the future," he said.

The 'game' involves people intentionally trying to choke themselves or each other in an effort to obtain a brief euphoric state or high. Death or serious injury can result if strangulation is prolonged.

"I have met with the school counselling team and the staff to discuss the coroner's concerns and we have not found any evidence of a trend with regards to the practice described.

"However in such matters we would never be complacent and will continue to be vigilant," Mr Gaffney said.

He said the matter will be introduced as part of the school's social, personal and health education (SPHE) programme and the school will monitor students it feels are vulnerable.

Concerns

"We appreciate the coroner bringing his concerns to our attention. All of us working in education are conscious of our responsibilities in working to prevent the tragedy of premature deaths in young people," Mr Gaffney said.

He said a "very effective culture of care" exists in the school with a system of tutors and year-heads supported by two full-time counsellors, a full-time chaplain and two guidance counsellors.

"In terms of the school and the community, we regard ourselves as close-knit, working together in a very supportive environment. Because of this, there exists a strong collaborative culture between teachers, parents and students that identifies students who may be at risk," he said.

Mr Connon's family, friends and fellow students are expected to attend a special service in the school on Monday to commemorate his life and to celebrate "the wonderful influence this young man had on all of us," Mr Gaffney added.

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