The father of Mia Janin, the 14-year-old JFS student who took her own life, says he wants the Jewish community to “reflect hard” on what happened to her.
Last week an inquest heard that Mia’s parents had complained to the school that she felt lonely and isolated, and that she was a victim of cyber-bullying.
“I think as a Jewish community we need to ask how we can avoid something like this happening again,” Mariano Janin told the JC. “It is not the first time something like this has happened and we need to reflect hard on what happened to Mia and how it was allowed to happen.
“I enjoy being part of the Jewish community and I can’t blame the community as a whole. I feel like a lot of people are sharing my worry and feeling my pain but we need to reflect on what has happened and ask why.”
He plans to set up a foundation in Mia’s name, but has not yet considered what form it should take. “The day after my daughter died, someone set up something to raise money in her name without my permission and that is wrong. I want to set up a foundation in her honour, but in good time.” Mia died in 2021 and her mother died four months later, having after contracting acute myeloid leukaemia and suffering a fatal brain aneurysm. Mr Janin has only just returned to work and is being supported by a therapist.
He added: “Before my wife died she used to say to me that Mia was the granddaughter of a Hungarian survivor and she couldn’t believe she died when her relatives survived that. It is not OK that we went through that as a family.”
Meanwhile, in a move the school insisted was unconnected to the inquest, JFS has warned that it will not tolerate students following social media accounts which mock people within the school or other schools.In an email to parents two weeks ago, JFS headteacher David Moody said that pupils who followed such accounts could be punished and those who created them suspended.
The problem of social media accounts set up to make derisory comments about others was “prevalent in the vast majority of schools”, he said, “but it in no way means that we should shy away from seeking to change the culture at JFS”. Students who come across accounts with “defamatory or hurtful material” have been told to report it, not follow it.
He informed parents that the school would start “searching social media platforms for such accounts, with sanctions for those students who are following such accounts”. Dr Moody said: “Unfortunately, there are many groups where our students are following such content and not reporting it. Where this is the case, students are likely to be in internal seclusion for a period of two days.”
Creators of such content would “receive far harsher sanctions and be suspended… but creators create for an audience and that audience should never include students from our school”. His hope “has always been for a school that is filled with kindness and care, and that all students look out for each other in the way that the vast majority of our students do so already”.
At last week’s inquest, the coroner heard evidence about all-male WhatsApp groups which allegedly cyber-bullied female pupils.
Mr Janin has met Dr Moody, who joined the school last year. He said: “He was nice to me and he listened,” but any changes are “too little too late to help Mia.”