Hamilton

'Everyone failed my son,' says mom who saw him stabbed outside Hamilton high school

Devan Bracci-Selvey was attacked before his mother's eyes outside Sir Winston Churchill Secondary School on Monday. His mother says the 14-year-old, who was stabbed and later died, had been bullied since the beginning of the school year.

Devan Bracci-Selvey's mom says son had been bullied since start of the school year

Shari-Ann Selvey, centre, leans on supporters and fights tears as she talks about her son, Devan Bracci-Selvey, who was stabbed in front of her Monday outside his Hamilton high school. (Dan Taekema/CBC)

The mother of Devan Bracci-Selvey, who died Monday, hasn't slept since that morning. She's afraid if she closes her eyes she'll have to relive her 14-year-old son's stabbing.

On Monday afternoon, Devan was attacked in front of his mother outside Sir Winston Churchill Secondary School in Hamilton's east end. The teen boy later died in hospital.

Shari-Ann Selvey​, fighting tears, said she's haunted by what she witnessed.

"It's embedded on my eyelids. I haven't slept. I haven't eaten. Every time I close my eyes, it's there, so I don't close my eyes," she said Wednesday afternoon, holding the hands of friends for support.

Devan was being bullied, according to his mom, who said the family was trying to get the school and the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board to address the abuse since the beginning of the school year and that despite policies around bullying there's no accountability.

"Everyone failed my son," said Selvey. "Even I did. I tried to save him, and I couldn't get to him in time."

On Monday, Devan called her to say some kids were bothering him, so could she please come pick him up.

"I went over there, and then my life fell apart," she said, as tears rolled down her face. 

A 14-year-old and an 18-year-old, both males from Hamilton, were charged with first-degree murder on Tuesday. 

During a media update Wednesday, Det.-Sgt. Steve Bereziuk of the Hamilton Police Service said investigators believe the 14-year-old is the person who stabbed Devan.

WATCH | Shari-Ann Selvey says she's haunted by what she witnessed:

Devan Bracci-Selvey was attacked before his mother's eyes outside Sir Winston Churchill Secondary School on Monday. His mother says he had been bullied since the beginning of the school year. 7:55

Three other teens were arrested by police, but have since been released without charge.

Investigators were initially hesitant to confirm whether the bullying and the attack were directly connected. On Wednesday, Bereziuk said the bullying aspect of the investigation is "growing."

"We are going to continue to probe the bullying concerns," he said.

When asked if police knew of any bullying incidents involving the two teens charged in connection with the homicide, Bereziuk declined to answer.

Photos of Devan sit among stuffed animals, flowers and messages of support at a makeshift memorial outside the 14-year-old's Hamilton home. (Dan Taekema/CBC)

Selvey said the bullying started on the second day of school when Devan and his friends were chased by some kids. They were jumped again that night, she said, and that time the kids tried to steal his bike.

Selvey said her son told his friends to run and offered to hand over his bike if the other kids would leave them alone.

"That's the heart of Devan. He saved his friend and left himself there," she said, adding he was harassed ever since that night.

Police said they're aware of the incident involving the bike, but said there's currently no information linking the accused in the stabbing to the bike theft.

The teen missed a lot of classes trying to avoid his bullies, according to Selvey, who said some mornings he flat out refused to go to school.

She said the school and board were aware of the abuse her son was suffering, saying his school year had gone "to hell."

"For a month, we've been trying to get this dealt with," said Selvey, adding one student had been suspended, but showed up at the school on Monday.

"All schools have the same policies, zero tolerance and zero bullying, and everyone belongs. And it's not true, and no one is held accountable for it, and then stuff like this happens."

School board says it's working with police

In a statement to CBC News, Manny Figueiredo, education director of the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board, confirmed Devan's mom reported several bullying incidents to school administrators and that the board would be handing that information over to police. But he would not provide any details about the school's response.

He said the board is focusing on supporting students and staff by bringing in social workers, a crisis response team and police liaison officers who are walking the halls.

School board officials are co-operating with the police investigation, Figueiredo said.

"We need to provide the evidence that we have in terms of, what did Devan report to the administration? There's a lot of talk about he was bullied. So what did he report? How did we respond? But all that evidence needs to be shared with the police at this point in time."

Figueiredo said there's still a "sense of shock" at the school. The board will be doing its own investigation into what happened.

Selvey receives a hug as she cries on the shoulder of a supporter Wednesday. (Dan Taekema/CBC)

For her part, Selvey said she has a message for people — if you see something that's wrong, do something about it.

"Stop being bystanders. My son was a toothpick, and he stood up for people."

The mother sometimes smiled through her tears as she talked about her son.

Devan's best quality was his goofiness, she said with a mix of laughter and tears, remembering a video of her boy dancing on the roof of her car, swinging her around the kitchen or play-fighting with her.

She described him as a passionate kid with a "beautiful soul" who helped her rescue cats and take them to the vet.

"He was there for the animals. He was there for people. He was just there. And now he's not."

A memorial, complete with candles and flowers, has started in front of Devan's home. His family said they hope to move it to Sir Winston Churchill Secondary School where he was attacked. (Dan Taekema/CBC)

Selvey said her daughter is pregnant, and Devan was very excited about being an uncle. The entire family is devastated by the fact that Devan won't have a future now.

"He lost all opportunities," said Selvey. "He's never going to grow up. He's never going to get married. He's never going to know what it's like to be a father."

After all that's happened, Selvey said she's left with one question.

"Why was I the only person that had his back?"

WATCH | From The National, Mother of stabbing victim says son was targeted by bullies:

The mother of the Hamilton teenager who was stabbed outside his school, told reporters that Devan Bracci-Selvey was targeted by bullies and “everyone failed" him. 2:47