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Amanda Todd's mother excluded from anti-bullying summit

Carol Todd with her daughter Amanda, who took her own life in September at age 15 after years of bullying. - Facebook.com
Carol Todd with her daughter Amanda, who took her own life in September at age 15 after years of bullying.
— image credit: Facebook.com

The province is defending its decision not to invite Amanda Todd's mother to an anti-bullying conference organized after her daughter's death.

In a conference call, Education Minister Don McRae explained the decision was made after consulting with two experts – Theresa Campbell, from Safer Schools Together in Surrey, and Kevin Cameron, with the Canadian Centre for Threat Assessment & Trauma Response, who worked with the Alberta government following a tragic school shooting in Taber.

"We talked to these individuals and they expressed a concern that if Mrs. Todd would attend ... that the risk for unintended consequence was there," said McRae.

When asked to elaborate on what those "unintended consequences" might be, McRae pointed to copy-cat suicides.

"I just didn't want a scenario where a young person causes harm to him or herself," he said.

"I just couldn't live with myself if there were unintended consequences."

McRae also spoke to Amanda's mother, Carole Todd, Wednesday morning, and set up a meeting next Monday to debrief her on the ERASE Bullying Summit.

The goal of the summit, spearheaded by Premier Christy Clark, was to bring people together to discuss innovative ways to address bullying and safety in schools and communities.

It was also a response to the suicide of Todd's daughter, a teen who documented her struggles with bullies online and at school in a YouTube video that's now been viewed more than 20 million times.

Barbara Coloroso, who was at the summit, told CKNW Radio that four other families who lost children to suicide following bullying were invited to the conference.

Todd acknowledged she agreed last week not to go to the summit, but only because it was evident that she was not invited. She had only asked to attend as an observer, not a speaker.

Todd took to Twitter to express her dismay after people wondered why she was not present.

"They thought my presence there would upset some students," she said.

"That's the perception I got ... it is a shame that I was excluded from the forum."

Todd, an assistive technology coordinator with the Coquitlam School District, wanted to attend the summit as an educator. She said she's curious and wants to stay informed.

She doesn't feel a meeting with Minister McRae, although well-intentioned, will satisfy her need to know about what went on because it's all second hand.

"It's the curiosity in me,, I would have been interested"

To go, she said, "Makes me more well-versed in talking about [bullying]."

Cameron, one of the experts advising the province on its Erase Bullying strategy, also spoke to media Wednesday to explain his advice.

He stressed that there was no intention to exclude Todd. If she had expressed an overwhelming desire to be at the summit, organizers would have accommodated her request.

Cameron, a certified expert in traumatic stress, noted that parents who experience high-profile trauma may say they want to be present and attend events, but often regret their decision after the fact.

"My counsel, which was followed, by the way, was to meet with Mrs. Todd beforehand and to really discuss the issues around what her presence at this type of a forum could have on both her and on those who are participating," Cameron explained.

He also understands why Todd may have changed her mind about attending the summit after she spoke to Ministry of Education staff last week.

"The struggle with a parent who is this close to the tragedy is that they sometimes get it and sometimes they don't," said Cameron, adding summit organizers wanted to avoid turning it into a forum for trauma response and "intense reaction" that could have impacted some of the participants. The Erase Bullying summit, the first of many, was meant to focus on bullying and the first step in a five-year plan to stem bullying in B.C.

Cameron praised the province for putting in place a long-term strategy.

"It's the first time I've been involved with a government that's committed to more than six months or a year," he said.

Resources

ERASEBullying.ca provides vital information, links and tips for parents and students.

ReportBullyingBC.ca provides students a secure and anonymous way to report instances of bullying, threats and other safety concerns.

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