Lisa Collins’ daughter was in Grade 5 when she came home from school with a black eye.
At the time she was a student at Alexander Robinson Elementary.
She told her mother that she was trying to defend a student when another student came after her.
Her daughter, who asked not to be named for this article, had to cross the street to try to get away from the attacker, but the person ended up hitting her anyway.
“That was the first incident,” said Collins, explaining that her daughter, now 15-years-old and in Grade 10, has been bullied throughout her schooling.
The concerned mother contends she took her complaints to the right channels – she went to the principal of the school and then to assistant superintendent of schools, David Vandergugten, yet, she said, no actions were ever taken.
“I had pictures and everything, and they did nothing. They said the kids have to learn how to deal with it. And they give excuses like the kids come from a broken home. That’s no excuse, period,” said Collins.
The final straw for Collins came about a month ago. Her daughter, who refused to leave her classroom at Garibaldi Secondary for fear of six girls at the school, was confronted by them.
Her mother said one of the girls entered the classroom and told her that the other girls wanted to talk to her.
She said she didn’t want to talk to them and immediately phoned her mom to tell her they were coming into the classroom – something they are not supposed to do because of COVID-19 cohort rules.
Collins claims two or three girls blocked the door while the other three screamed and threatened her daughter. Collins took her concerns to the principal, but again, she said, the school didn’t do much. The girls were only told not to have anything to do with Collin’s daughter on social media and most did, said Collins, except for one.
Collins has filed a police report but has been told that police can’t do anything unless her daughter is physically beaten up.
She has since started schooling her daughter from home.
“My daughter is scared out of her mind to step foot back in that school. She will not go back to school,” she said.
And the mother is mad because the other students are still able to attend their classes.
“Are you kidding me? They are getting an education and staying in school, and my daughter can’t. How is that fair?” asked Collins.
The mother said her daughter suffers from anxiety disorder and ADHD.
“She is a child that needs to be in school and I can’t get her into a school,” she asserted.
And Collins is not the only parent accusing schools of not doing enough to protect students from bullying.
Catherine Schreiber’s daughter went to Laity View Elementary, and said she was bullied there from Grade 1 until Grade 4. Not only was she bullied by other students, said the mother, but she was also singled out by a teacher because of her learning disability. This, she said, led to a toxic environment.
Her daughter, who is now in university, had an undiagnosed processing disorder and Schreiber said the teacher would punish the child for not knowing letters, isolating her in the classroom and shaming her in front of her peers.
It was during this time period, she said, that her daughter developed anxiety and started speaking of suicide.
“I approached the administration multiple times, in vain,” noted Schreiber.
At one point she confronted one of her daughter’s tormentors in the school yard when she saw him throw a basketball at her head. But after she marched the boy to the principal’s office, the principal defended the boy’s actions, saying he had a “difficult home-life” and chastised Schreiber for speaking to him.
Schreiber removed her daughter from the school in November 2010 when she found out her child had been put into a class with students with severe mental disabilities, without her permission. She found a home-school program based out of Coquitlam where, she said, her daughter was treated with “compassion and respect.”
And once her child was properly assessed, she excelled and graduated with top marks.
“My daughter’s story is one of only several that I know of from that time at Laity View,” said the mother.
“I can only imagine how many more there are,” she added.
In a response, the school district said they take all incidents of bullying seriously. And, even though they cannot comment on specific situations, they have “robust” policies and responses in place to ensure schools are, “safe, welcoming, and inclusive environments for all students”.
The district also pointed out their Safe, Caring and Healthy Schools policy, they said provides the philosophical framework for their approach and their commitment to, “providing safe, caring and socially responsible school environments” free from acts of bullying, cyber-bullying, harassment, threats and intimidation or violence in any form.
“Our goal is to teach our children the skills they need to gain self-awareness, perspective-taking and empathy, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making,” read the district’s response, adding it is these social and emotional skills that will help children learn how to resolve differences in a compassionate manner.
The process that a student or family should follow if a child is feeling bullied is to first talk to the teacher and then the principal. Then if the matter is not resolved to speak with the assistant superintendent and then the deputy superintendent.
“School suspensions and/or zero-tolerance policies have been shown to be ineffective in changing behaviour,” the response read.
“We want every student to feel safe. We follow up on and investigate every report and take all concerns seriously.”
Collins said she has talked with SD42 assistant superintendent Ken Cober about the latest incidents, and was told that he talked with the principal and they are dealing with the issue.
Collins also gave the school district the police file number.
“It needs to get out there that the schools are not doing anything, period,” said the worried mom.
“They are letting it go on thinking they can educate the kids, when obviously educating the kids doesn’t do anything. They need to step up their discipline policy or their regulations on their so-called bullying.”
Collins said the girls should have been suspended from school because, not only did they bully her daughter, but they broke COVID regulations and went into a non-cohort classroom.
The other girl has since filed a police report on Collins saying that she has been stalking her.
Collins insisted her daughter is a girl who does not make friends easily, because of the history of bullying that has happened to her.
“The system is broken,” she said.
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