Advertisement

Mia Janin: Coroner raises bullying concerns following suicide of London schoolgirl

Mia Janin took her own life in 2021 at the age of 14, after being bullied by boys at JFS (PA)
Mia Janin took her own life in 2021 at the age of 14, after being bullied by boys at JFS (PA)

A coroner has raised concerns about bullying with a north London school following the suicide of 14-year-old pupil Mia Janin.

“Kind, bubbly and creative” Mia took her own life at her family’s home in Harrow on March 2021, after being tormented by boys at the Jewish Free School (JFS).

North London area coroner Tony Murphy, who last month presided over Mia’s inquest at Barnet Coroner’s Court, has now issued a rare “prevention of future deaths” report to JFS expressing concerns there are ongoing bullying issues at the school, particularly involving boys targeting girls.

He acknowledged “systemic” changes made by JFS since Mia’s death, but said he fears those changes do not go far enough.

He said that at Mia’s inquest, students had described “regular incidents of gender-based bullying”, which he is concerned could lead to “a risk of other deaths”.

"The current head teacher...gave evidence at the final inquest hearing concerning systemic changes introduced at JFS following Mia’s death,” said Mr Murphy, in his report to JFS.

Mia Janin took her own life in March 2021 (PA)
Mia Janin took her own life in March 2021 (PA)

“This included a complete overhaul of safeguarding practices, increased behaviour management, improved information, staff surveys and externally delivered sessions by charities including Norwood, Streetwise, Jewish Womens Aid and Keshet.

"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.

“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.”

Mr Murphy added that “any ongoing gender-based bullying at JFS gives rise to a concern that circumstances creating a risk of other deaths will occur”.

"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,” he said.

Head teacher Dr David Moody said JFS takes the coroner’s comments “incredibly seriously”, but said the testimony given by pupils at Mia’s inquest is “not a reflection of the school today”.

The mixed comprehensive is the largest Jewish school in Europe, with more than 2,000 pupils aged 11 to 18.

In a statement to the Standard, Dr Moody, who has been JFS headmaster since December 2021, said: “We thank the coroner for his investigation.

The Jewish Free School in Kenton, north-west London (Google Maps)
The Jewish Free School in Kenton, north-west London (Google Maps)

“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.”

Year 10 pupil Mia was last seen alive around 10pm on March 11, 2021, when she said goodnight to her parents in their family home.

She was tragically found dead in her bedroom at 6.50am the following day by her mother, Marisa. Two undated letters were found on her bed addressed to “her loving family and friends”, which explained that she had decided to end her life.

Neither Mia’s family or teachers were aware she was being bullied before her death.

But evidence given by friends at her inquest told how she had been regularly tormented by boys at school.

Mia Janin, a year 10 pupil at JFS was found dead at her family home in Harrow on March 12, 2021 (Change.org)
Mia Janin, a year 10 pupil at JFS was found dead at her family home in Harrow on March 12, 2021 (Change.org)

The inquest heard how police believed “horrible” messages had been circulated about her on Snapchat group, and negative comments left on a TikTok video she posted days before her death.

One statement from a friend of Mia’s, read at her inquest, said boys shared the TikTok video in a Snapchat group chat where they also shared nude photos of girls.

Rabbi Howard Cohen, former deputy headteacher at JFS, told the inquest that after Mia’s death there was “some talk around the school” of what he described as “boys-only bravado groups” sharing images of girls, and he was made aware of a boys’ WhatsApp group in which members were rating the “attractiveness” of female pupils.

But there was no reason to believe the groups related to Mia, Rabbi Cohen said.

Mia's best friend Martha, who has since left JFS, told the inquest their friendship group was picked on relentlessly but what Mia experienced was "to a different extent".

“They’d be calling her names, making fun of what she said...just taunting her,” she later told the BBC.

Mia's father released a WhatsApp voice note his daughter had sent to a friend on the night of her death, which laid bare the devastating toll the bullying had taken.

"Tomorrow’s going to be a rough day,” Mia was heard saying, audibly upset, in the recording shared with BBC London.

“Stand by me. I’m taking deep breaths, in and out. I’m currently mentally preparing myself to get bullied tomorrow.”

Mia Janin’s father Mariano Janin said previously he believed his daughter had been cyber-bullied by other pupils (James Manning/PA) (PA Wire)
Mia Janin’s father Mariano Janin said previously he believed his daughter had been cyber-bullied by other pupils (James Manning/PA) (PA Wire)

Mia’s father, Mariano Janin, paid tribute to his daughter, saying: “She was fantastic, she was very bubbly, good sense of humour, she was beautiful, she was very kind, very creative”.

Months after Mia’s death, her mother died at the age of 59, shortly after being diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia.“She was in good health and she was a fighter, but she just couldn’t take what happened to Mia,” Mr Janin later told the Telegraph.

In a statement after Mia’s inquest, Mr Janin said: “Nothing will bring back my wife and my daughter Mia.

“For almost three years we have sought answers for the loss of Mia, today we found some of those answers and the failure of the people who trust and were meant to keep her safe.

“My daughter experienced prolonged and sustained bullying in various ways in person and online. In a way it’s a relief this has now been recognised, however, there does need to be accountability. Another family cannot live what I have lived.”

He added: “In order to protect our kids I think we need to do a lot of things.

“I think we need to put some limits on the access of the kids on the internet and how we can recollect the data if something like this has happened. We need to create a safe environment for our kids.

“We need to learn from our mistakes in order to avoid this happening again.”

For mental health support, contact the Samaritans on 116 123, email them at jo@samaritans.org, or visit samaritans.org.