JFS has not done enough to address gender-based bullying following Mia Janin’s death, says coroner

The school says it now has comprehensive safeguarding measures in place


Mia Janin

Gender-based bullying has not been dealt with at the Jewish Free School (JFS), a coroner has warned.

Coroner Tony Murphy reported that JFS had not done enough to make female students feel safe at the north London school following Mia’s death.

In his Report to Prevent Future Deaths, addressed to the headteacher of JFS, Dr David Moody, Murphy recommended that the school should take action in adapting their approach to gender-based bullying.

The north London coroner, who attended the inquest into Mia’s death, warned: “Any ongoing gender-based bullying at JFS gives rise to a concern that circumstances creating a risk of other deaths will occur, or will continue to exist, in the future.

“In my opinion, action should be taken to prevent future deaths and I believe you and your organisation have the power to take such action,” said the coroner.

In the report, Murphy wrote: “Mia’s death was entirely unexpected by her family, friends and teachers. She had felt low self-esteem at times but had not been diagnosed with any mental illness nor presented a risk of taking her own life.

“Mia had close friends including at her secondary school but she also experienced bullying behaviour from some male students. Neither Mia’s family nor teachers was aware of that behaviour before her death.

“On March 10, 2021, Mia posted a video on social media asking two of these male students not to mock her and criticising their music and fashion.

“This video received a large number of hostile responses, which Mia found stressful.”

At the inquest into Mia’s death, the school said it had conducted a “complete overhaul of safeguarding practices, increased behaviour management, improved information, staff surveys and externally delivered sessions by charities including Norwood, Streetwise, Jewish Women’s Aid and Keshet”.

However, in his report, Murphy said that JFS had not done enough to confront the culture of bullying that contributed to Janin’s death: “The initiatives introduced by JFS to address gender-based bullying following Mia’s death do not appear to have gained the confidence of some JFS female students, which gives rise to a concern that circumstances creating a risk of other deaths will occur, or will continue to exist, in the future.

“Evidence provided by some JFS students after Mia’s death to the police and Ofsted described regular incidents of gender-based bullying by some male JFS students of some female JFS students,” he said.

“Some of those child witnesses had not experienced a change in culture at JFS since Mia’s death and did not describe being consulted or surveyed about the changes introduced by JFS.”

The school is under a duty to respond to Murphy’s report within 56 days. By 18 April, the coroner expects a response containing details of the action taken or proposed by JFS.

Mia Janin is buried in Israel with her mother, Marisa, who died from leukaemia four months after her daughter’s death.

This month Mia’s father, Mariano, told the JC that any changes at JFS are “too little too late to help Mia”.

On behalf of the school, headteacher Dr David Moody, said: “We thank the coroner for his investigation. The witness statements to which the coroner refers were taken in late 2021 or early 2022, shortly after I joined JFS and they are not a reflection of the school today. As part of the school’s ‘Good’ Ofsted rating in April 2022, OfSTED reported that ‘Pupils know to whom and where they can turn if they have any worries. Pupils felt confident to report any concerns because staff help them. Staff are vigilant to any incidents of bullying and act swiftly to resolve any bullying issues.’

We have a team of eight full-time professionals working with any children who report problems with their mental health, and it is some of the most comprehensive provision that I have seen in a state school. That said, we take the comments and observations of the coroner incredibly seriously and will be sharing with him all details of the support and systems that are now embedded.”

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