‘We would bring the school down’: The Discord chat that allegedly led to a Perth teacher’s stabbingNovember 2, 2021
An alleged plot to kill a Willetton Senior High School teacher and set fire to the schoolroom was mapped out on a gaming chat app with settings that make it impossible for parents to monitor.
Perth Children’s Court heard two female students, aged 13 and 14, had used social app Discord to message one another about the plan over the space of two weeks.
Discord allows for invite-only chat rooms which can make monitoring children’s activities on the app difficult.Credit:Discord
Both are charged over the attempting to kill plot, but charges were likely to change due to ongoing investigations, a state prosecutor told the court on Tuesday.
The older student, accused of stabbing the 55-year-old female teacher in her office before fleeing the school after recess on Monday, allegedly messaged the younger girl about her extensive research into the most effective way of severing a main artery, either by stabbing the teacher in the back of the neck or under her armpit.
The prosecution alleged the 14-year-old girl also discussed the time it would take to fill a room with gas from the valves, whether the gas taps had safety switches, and how much kindling would be needed for it to catch fire.
The younger girl allegedly replied, “this is so cool”, “this sounds fun” and joked over how much time her friend had to research such a plan, saying: “You scare me.”
“We would bring the school down, most people would find that scary,” the 14-year-old allegedly wrote on Discord.
The platform for children aged 13 and older has become a teen favourite because of its gaming connections to Fortnite and Pokémon Go, but like all social media forums, it also has become a haven for more sinister content and predators.
Unlike the more open and discoverable social apps like TikTok, Instagram or Facebook, Discord operates by creating closed servers accessible by invitation only – unless made public – and have templates like “school club”, “gaming”, “study group” and “friends”, among others.
To chat directly, users need to enter a Discord username or scan using Bluetooth for nearby users or recommended friends.
According to one parenting blog; “Discord doesn’t offer parental controls, so there’s no way for parents to restrict content or password-protect the privacy settings within the app”.
And attempts to monitor content posted would prove impossible, with even the 13-year-old’s lawyer Sean O’Sullivan telling the court that police would have not known about the messages had she not shown them where to look.
Mr Sullivan noted to the court that had she had legal counsel, she may not have divulged as much as she did, but “that’s to her credit, in that sense”.
The girl was said to have made full admissions to police in a recorded interview and then spent her first-ever night in jail at the Banksia remand centre at 1am on Tuesday morning, before fronting the Perth court still dressed in her school uniform.
Both Mr Sullivan and the prosecution described her naivety in following along with the plot that allegedly included her stashing the 25-centimetre kitchen knife in her bag for two class periods before the stabbing.
“We’re dealing with a 13-year-old girl in a school without all the disclosure, who got caught up in something she was not able to handle,” he told the magistrate.
The teacher was taken to Fiona Stanley Hospital for a 1-centimetre deep wound under her left armpit that did not prove life-threatening but left her “vulnerable … at her place of employment where she deserves to feel safe”.
The 13-year-old was granted strict supervised bail that included a 24-hour curfew, with no social media or interaction with her co-accused, the teacher who was stabbed or witnesses, and she was to stay more than 100 metres from the school.
The 14-year-old was confined under guard to Perth Children’s Hospital for a week to undergo a more thorough mental assessment over concerns that she had a history of mental health issues and incidents of “serious concern”, even though she was “not actively psychotic or delusional”.
Prosecutors opposed bail for her given the “significant differences” between the two girls and the younger student was not considered a danger to society.
Both girls had the full support of their families, who were in court for Tuesday’s proceedings.
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