Former deputy tells of 'happy kid'
AN EMOTIONAL former deputy principal of Mullumbimby High School almost broke down on the stand as he was cross-examined by the father of Jai Morcom on day two of the coronial inquest into the schoolboy’s death.
Ray Linabury, now retired, told the inquest that Jai was a likeable, happy kid who mixed freely with all school groups and as far as he knew, was never subjected to bullying.
He also testified that, based on his 36-year teaching career at several Sydney high schools, Mullumbimby High was not a violent school and had ‘a very effective anti-bullying program’.
Council assisting the coroner, Michael Wigney SC, was at pains to illustrate that bullying wasn’t an issue in the schoolyard fight that preceded Jai’s collapse and subsequent death, putting the same line of questioning to principal Ian Graham and former head teacher Donna Pearson.
Ms Pearson testified that compared with her previous 19 years at Tamworth High School, Mullumbimby High was a ‘dream school’ and violence ‘just wasn’t a part of (the) playground culture’.
Mr Linabury, who was responsible for school discipline, spoke affectionately about the boys in his care and appeared to be at a loss to understand the tragedy.
Before realising the seriousness of Jai’s condition after the fight, Mr Linabury was overseeing the boys involved and said the disagreement had been sorted out.
He said disputes were usually easily resolved and the school was not one of clearly defined groups. When pressed by deputy state coroner Hugh Dillon about early media reports suggesting conflict between two subcultures, he said being in a tight community most kids knew one another and ‘got on pretty well’. “I’ve never seen kids hug one another as much as they did at Mullumbimby,” he said.