Matthew Joash David (Facebook)
Matthew Joash David, a 17-year-old Durban teenager, was found hanging by his mother after he was allegedly bullied and called gay and a pervert by his school principal.
According to local newspaper, Rising Sun Chatsworth, Matthew – who was described as humble and introverted – killed himself on Tuesday last week, shortly after an allegedly abusive disciplinary hearing at the Chatsworth Secondary School.
The young man’s mother, Judy David, said she and Matthew had gone to school to collect his report and after waiting for more than two hours were called into the meeting with no warning.
She told The Post that during the hearing Matthew was bullied by the principal, deputy principal, a governing body member and a teacher.
Judy claimed: “They began picking on him. They called him a pervert, said he looked gay because of his hairstyle and that he had been caught smoking and was even taking drugs…” Despite pleas for a second chance, Matthew was allegedly told to shut up and that he was “destined for death or jail”, the grieving mother told Rising Sun.
“After the meeting, he was given a letter to visit a social worker and was told that he is not wanted back in the school. We took a taxi and on our way home, Matthew met some of his friends and began to cry when he saw them. He said he can’t handle being victimised anymore. He said this was the last straw.”
The teenager got home before his mother did and locked himself in their Westcliff, Chatsworth house. When his mother arrived she saw, through a glass door, the family dog running around inside. A neighbour climbed in through a window with a ladder and found Matthew hanging by his school tie.
“My son would have still been alive today, if he was just given a second chance,” Judy said.
These are the people that are supposed to protect our children
Matthew was buried on Saturday. His Facebook page has been flooded with messages of shock and condolences from friends following his death. A group has been set up called Justice For Matthew Joash David and a protest was held by the family and supporters outside the school today.
Speaking to Mambaonline, Matthew’s devastated brother, Joshua A Beaumont, said the family is furious about the way the youth was treated by the school. “The principal’s words exactly [to Matthew in the hearing],” he claimed, “were ‘the best thing for you is death, you’re a disgrace’.” He believes that his brother took his own life because “he felt that he had disgraced my mother.”
Pic: Casandra Samuel / Facebook
Joshua has demanded that the principal resign or be fired. “We protested today and we gave them a memorandum. But the principal wouldn’t come out,” he said. A small but vocal group stood outside the school on Wednesday, calling for “justice for Matthew,” and holding placards that read, “Do not violate one’s rights” and “Abusers must be jailed.”
Eventually a teacher came out to accept the document, which demands an immediate independent inquiry into the incident (see below).
The KwaZulu-Natal Department of Education has responded that “any form of abuse experienced should be reported to law enforcement” and that it will be investigating the incident. Joshua, however, told Mambaonline that the family has yet to be contacted by the department.
“We want justice,” Joshua explained. “We want our children to be able to be able to speak out. We don’t want them to live in fear. From what we’ve seen this has been happening to a lot of children. These are the people that are supposed to protect our children.”
According to a 2016 Love Not Hate report, 56% of LGBT South Africans surveyed said they’d experienced discrimination based on their LGBT status at school, with the most common form of abuse being verbal insults.