Calgary

Few details offered on CBE school bullying review as another Calgary mother calls for action

The Calgary Board of Education continues to offer few details of a promised independent review into bullying at its schools, as more complaints and stories from concerned parents continue to surface.

Alberta’s new education minister says she is aware of Calgary bullying cases

Shada Mohamed says her son Malakhi has suffered racist bullying at school but nothing changes despite reporting incidents to the school and board. In one incident she says her son was kicked by six kids on his school bus after initially being prevented from getting on board and told it’s because he’s black. (Dan McGarvey/CBC)

The Calgary Board of Education continues to offer few details of a promised independent review into bullying at its schools, as more complaints and stories from concerned parents continue to surface.

Several parents have shared disturbing stories of bullying at Calgary elementary schools and what they see as apathy and inaction by both the schools concerned and the school board.

The worst case involved nine-year-old Amal Alshteiwi, who took her own life at home after sustained bullying at her northeast elementary school. 

Now another parent says her young son, who is in Grade 2, continues to suffer racist bullying at his northwest CBE elementary school, which — like other recent cases — she says the school and board have refused to take seriously.

Alberta's new education minister says she is aware of the recent bullying cases and the issue is on the provincial government's radar.

"First of all, my heart goes out to the family of Amal Alshteiwi. This is a tremendously tragic situation and I offer my sincere condolences to Amal's family, friends and school community," said minister Adriana LaGrange in an emailed statement to CBC News.

"I value a strong, vibrant and inclusive education system that protects students against discrimination and bullying," said LaGrange.

"These values will help guide my work as minister."

Education minister Adriana LaGrange says the province is aware of the bullying concerns. (Adriana LaGrange/Facebook)

Shada Mohamed, the latest parent to speak out, says her son Malakhi King was stopped from getting on his school bus by older kids who told him it was "because he was black," said Mohamed. "They block him from sitting in his seat."

"It's been happening constantly, it's been repetitive. They've been blocking him and once he got on the bus six kids kicked him," said Mohamed, who says the most serious incidents have happened travelling to and from school on the bus.

Mohamed says others parents she's spoken with at the northwest school say there's a lot of bullying there. 

"Nobody seems to take this seriously. It's a joke," she said. "There's no discipline.

"I've been into the school every time there's been an issue, I address it right after school and address it with the principal. The only thing they've done is stop some children from going on the bus temporarily but they're not really learning anything," said Mohamed. "They haven't addressed the bullying."

She says her son Malakhi is bullied at recess and during class, too. She says kids stop him from playing basketball and harass him.

"It's a repetitive habit that they're not stopping. I put my kid's safety in the school's hands and them not doing anything or taking responsibility is really harmful. My kid had a field trip today and I can't even let him go," she said.

"It's not a pattern that they've stopped," she said. "My kid doesn't want to go to school and I don't want my kids to hurt like that."

Her older daughter, who is in Grade 6, has been targeted too. In one incident she was told her skin colour was the same as the poop emoji and suffered teasing about her race.

Mohamed says she's taken her concerns to the school, the CBE and even a police constable but the bullying has continued. She says she hasn't heard back from anybody.

"It has a really long-lasting effect on children, mentally it has a long effect. It's hurtful and no child should ever go through that," said Mohamed. 

"My kid's colour isn't going to change so you just need to respect it.

"I want children to go to school and feel safe at school, that's what children are supposed to feel."

Stories follow similar pattern

Mohamed's stories follow a similar pattern to other parents who have shared their stories: bullying being played down by schools, in some cases denied with the issue never being addressed or resolved.

Nine-year-old Syrian refugee Amal Alshteiwi took her own life in March after her parents say she was bullied for months.

Kids at her school say they saw Amal suffer at the hands of bullies and it was common knowledge among kids that she was being bullied daily. 

Amal's parents, who don't speak English, struggled to raise the alarm about their daughter's bullying. But they say the concerns they did raise were ignored by school officials and teachers who they say should have recognized and addressed what was happening.

In another recent case reported by CBC another family at the same school as Amal Alshteiwi took the step of removing their children from the school altogether and moving to a different part of the city after they say their complaints also weren't taken seriously and were even denied by the school principal.

Nancy Kamau, says her daughters Wairimu, second from left, and Wangui, third from left, were bullied for months but multiple complaints to the school weren’t taken seriously. Her husband David Nganga, right, says the school tried to brush the issue under the carpet rather than take action. (Dan McGarvey/CBC)

The girls' parents came to Canada as immigrants from Africa.

In their case, their daughters suffered continued racist abuse, had their hair cut off and one girl was attacked with a stick injuring her genitals. The family say no action was taken and nobody followed up on complaints, with the school playing down the incidents.

The Calgary Board of Education have so far declined multiple requests for an interview to talk about bullying including its promised independent review.

The CBE did send an emailed statement to CBC, which reads: "In response to questions and concerns raised by parents and the public regarding bullying in our schools, the CBE has initiated an independent review of our policies and processes related to student safety and wellbeing in all of our schools."

It goes on to confirm the review will be completed by the start of the 2019-2020 school year.

The CBE's website on the review reads: "We all have a responsibility to end bullying wherever it is happening. This isn't work we can do alone."

"We need to work on it as a community," said Mohamed. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dan McGarvey

Journalist

Dan McGarvey is a mobile journalist focused on filing stories remotely for CBC Calgary’s web, radio, TV and social media platforms, only using an iPhone and mobile tech. You can email story ideas and tips to Dan at: dan.mcgarvey@cbc.ca or tweet him @DanMcGarvey

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