A Queensland family has made a desperate call for change following the suicide of a transgender teenager who was allegedly tormented by school bullies when he started using male pronouns.
Onyx John, who recently began identifying as male, was found dead by his mum at home in the rural town of Beaudesert, Queensland, on July 16.
The 13-year-old “gentle soul” was a Year 7 student at Beaudesert State High School and dreamt of becoming a vet, but suicided after allegedly facing relentless harassment and cyber bullying by students.
Onyx’s sister Ivy Lambert explained in a public Facebook page called A voice for Rose Onyx that “Rose decided she felt (more) comfortable being a he, his name is Onyx John”.
She went on to say that the bullying began after Onyx started using he/him pronouns.
“He didn’t have gender issues,” Ivy told the Daily Mail Australia, adding that “he accepted that he wanted to be a boy”.
“The kids at school wouldn’t accept it. The students would taunt him in front of everyone.”
Ivy said the students would call Onyx names, and that fake accounts were allegedly created pretending to be Onyx harassing other students.
She said the bullying “got so bad he would be shaking if he was forced to go to school”.
The bullying, which Ivy said had been going on since primary school, escalated last August when Onyx was allegedly confronted by a group of girls in the school bathrooms.
“The school said they would ‘handle it’ but there’s never been any consequences for the pack of girls who tried bashing him in the school toilets last year,” Ivy told the Daily Mail Australia. “After that we were lucky if he went to school twice a week.”
In the wake of Onyx’s death, Ivy said she would seek “justice” for her sibling, and began campaigning the school and Queensland Department of Education to take action against bullying and to enforce the “duty of care” they have to students facing bullying.
In a letter to the Department of Education, shared to social media, she pleaded for help to “stop our kids from dying”.
“We called and emailed the school for help, they did nothing, the police did nothing, the hospital sent is home when (Onyx) talked about taking (his) life. THE SYSTEM LET US DOWN,” Ivy wrote in the letter.
“THATS (sic) SCHOOL WAS TOLD OF THE PROBLEMS YET NOTHING HAPPENED”
She said “many” Beaudesert parents and students had shared their own stories of bullying at the school, or told her of people who had died “from this ignorance”.
“I never want another person to feel the pain we feel,” she continued.
“We need to get the word out there our kids we ARE NOT GOING TO LET THEM SWEEP THIS UNDER THE RUG ANYMORE. THEY DID NOTHING TO HELP MY SISTER and now she is gone.
“You need to do something, these bullies need consequences!!! I will not stop until I change this broken Education system!! I am my sisters voice.”
News.com.au has approached the department for comment on Ms Lambert’s letter and the school’s alleged response to this incident.
A department spokesperson confirmed to the Daily Mail that allegations of bullying at Beaudesert State School were being looked into and that staff and students had been offered ongoing support through guidance officers and support staff at the school’s wellbeing centre.
The spokesperson said staff and students “close to the student” were spoken to directly while others were “informed at assemblies or through information sent to parents”.
“The school has been in regular contact with the student’s family and is also speaking with local elders,” the spokesperson said.
According to the Daily Mail, Beaudesert State School principal Grant Stephensen extended support to the family and sent a backdated email to parents several days after Onyx’s death that offered counselling to students who need it.
The letter said the staff had been “deeply impacted” by the suicide.
“We have been given pause to reflect and want to ensure Beaudesert SHS is a safe place for students to learn. Your voice is an important part of our reflection,” Mr Stephensen wrote in a letter to Ivy, Daily Mail Australia reports.
Ivy started a GoFundMe page to raise funds for Onyx’s funeral service on Saturday, raising almost $3000 so far – well above the $2000 target.
“I have created this GoFundMe to help Mum pay for (Onyx’s) service, the last thing she needs is to stressing about how she can afford everything,” she wrote on the page.
Any money left over will be donated to Suicide Prevention Australia.
A peaceful protest is set to take place at Beaudesert State School on August 14 in a show of support for bullying victims and voice their concerns to administrators.