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School denies self-harming issue in class


Lara Burns-Gibbs

Lara Burns-Gibbs

Lara Burns-Gibbs

THE school principal and counsellor of a 12-year-old girl who took her own life has denied claims at an inquest that her self-harming was discovered in class by a teacher.

Lara Burns-Gibbs (12) was found hanging in a barn at her family home at Grange, Enfield in Co Meath on the evening of November 24, 2012.

Her mother Helene Burns had previously told Dublin Coroner's Court that Maynooth Post-Primary School discovered Lara was self-harming. She said that in one incident another student saw marks on Lara's arm and the issue was not dealt with discreetly by the teacher.


Ms Burns claimed that Lara was sent to see the counsellor in the middle of class.

However, at the resumption of the inquest, the school's counsellor Megan Gaffney and principal Johnny Nevin both said that they were unaware of this incident happening.

Ms Gaffney said that Lara self-referred for counselling on September 12, 2012, and told her that she had been self-harming. She saw evidence of this, she said, and agreed a "safety plan" with Lara including informing her mother and a referral to suicide and self-harm crisis centre Pieta House.

Lara continued to avail of counselling sessions at the school while also attending Pieta House. Ms Gaffney said she discussed issues with Lara regarding difficulties in her relationships and low self-esteem.

Speaking from the body of the court, Ms Burns reiterated her claim about the classroom incident. However, Ms Gaffney said that as far as she was aware "the incident in the classroom did not happen."

Coroner Dr Brian Farrell said there was "nothing out of the usual" in terms of any bullying affecting Lara.

Lara was clinically assessed by Jules Thompson at Pieta House on October 10. Ms Thompson told the court she categorised Lara as "high risk" after she spoke of one previous suicide attempt and feeling suicidal for the previous year.

Ms Burns said the family had never been told that Lara was high risk or had suicidal ideation. However, Ms Thompson said protocols required her to tell parents when a client is high risk and she did this.

The inquest was adjourned to May 21.