Saskatoon

Balgonie teen who took his own life was subjected to racial slurs, inquest hears

A coroner's inquest heard Tuesday that​​​​​​​ Balgonie teen Kaleab Schmidt  was subjected to racial slurs in person and online in the days and months leading up his death. 

Kaleab Schmidt took his own life at his family farm near Balgonie on April 30th, 2018

Kaleab Schmidt was 13 years old when he took his life last year. Now his friends have taken part in a tribute video that honours his memory and urges others not to make the same choice. (Submitted by Belan Tsegaye)

A coroner's inquest heard Tuesday that Balgonie teen Kaleab Schmidt  was subjected to racial slurs in person and online in the days and months leading up his death. 

School officials testified there was allegedly a Snapchat group called "I Hate Kaleab Schmidt" created by students at Greenall High School.

The principal and vice-principal Greenall High School  testified at the inquest into Schmidt's death this week that they were aware that a fellow student had called Kaleab the n-word.

A school social worker testified she met with Kaleab three times shortly before he died —and he told her he was being bullied on social media.

On at least two occasions, Kaleab told the social worker he wanted to handle the situation on his own, without school intervention.

Schmidt, 13, and two of his sisters from Ethiopia were adopted six years before he took own life at his family farm near Balgonie on April 30th, 2018.

Schmidt was charged with assault days before he took his own life

The day before 13-year-old Kaleab Schmidt took his own life, he was charged with assault causing bodily harm.

That charged stemmed from a fight in the Greenall High School gym during a lunch hour basketball game. Schmidt had apparently punched a classmate. 

Schmidt's parents told the inquest Kaleab had been the victim of bullying and racism and that the fight happened after he was purposely tripped while playing basketball — and he retaliated by punching the other student, knocking out some teeth.

The RCMP officer who laid that charge, Constable Michael Lien was in the witness box Tuesday. He said he decided to charge Kaleab after taking a statement from the victim.

Lien was questioned by lawyers about how much he asked Kaleab about his mental health. The officer says he suspected Kaleab was having troubles in his social life, and had a rough upbringing as an orphan in Ethiopia.

Still, he says he decided to charge Kaleab because there was an assault, and there was no indication the teen intended to harm himself.

 

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