- LONDON - A thrill-seeking "fainting game'' that killed a boy at
Britain's elite Eton College has set worried school authorities on a search
into how widespread the practice is and why privileged youth needs the
buzz of dicing with death.
- Masters at Eton, where the two sons of
Prince Charles are pupils, said they were amazed by the revelations at
an inquest into why 15-year-old Nicholas Taylor hanged himself in his room
with a dressing gown rope in February.
- The coroner echoed the teachers' disbelief
as he listened to fellow students telling how they would half-strangle
each other to induce a high.
- An Eton pupil told the court how two
boys would tie a cord round the neck of a third pupil. When the boy being
"fainted'' stopped tapping his thigh the others would release him.
When others lost interest in the game, Taylor tried it alone.
- "Why? What words spring to mind?
Crazy, mad, stupid? What on earth were they thinking of?'' coroner Robert
Wilson said in announcing a verdict of death by misadventure Tuesday.
- Psychologists said that in the eyes of
many boys, the so-called fainting game would be a way of proving they could
- "You probably would have been regarded
as a wimp or an outsider if you didn't take part,'' said a spokeswoman
for the British Association for Counseling (BAC).
- "The boys are really very determined
to outwit the masters and create secrets for themselves - you have scored
one up on the adults in the game of life,'' said the spokeswoman.
- "It's an example of the inclination
of young boys to experiment,'' Stuart Westley, master of Haileybury, a
boarding school in southern England, told Reuters.
- Schoolmasters in the cloistered world
of elite boarding schools, which traditionally group hundreds of boys in
dormitories in historic country houses, say it is impossible to keep a
24-hour watch on their charges.
- "All schools would be caring and
vigilant, but as the coroner said at the inquest, teachers can't observe
students every minute of the day,'' said Tony Beadles, headmaster at Epsom
College, another private boarding school.
- Eton said only eight to 10 boys were
involved in the fainting game and it went on for only two or three weeks
before falling out of favor.
- But Taylor's tragic death sent a scare
through other elite schools and many planned to advise parents of the case
and carry out investigations to ensure it was not happening in their institutions.
- The schools are already under the microscope
because of a recent study which found that almost half of their pupils
had tried drugs by the age of 16.
- The results, drawn from a survey carried
out by the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference, an independent
group representing fee-paying schools, showed drugs came second only to
family break-ups as the cause of pupil problems.
- The fainting game tragedy was seized
on by Britain's tabloid press which loves to portray an image of bizarre
goings on at schools like Eton, where students wear stiff white collars
and black gowns to lessons and parents pay about 15,000 pounds ($24,420)
- But Gladeana McMahon, a psychotherapist
who has worked with teenagers, said Taylor's death could have happened
- "This could have happened at a children's
home. This time it just happened at Eton.''