Now Or Never

Sue the school board. That's what this bullied Canadian teen did — and won

Are you getting bullied at school but you don't think your principal and other officials are doing enough to stop it? One option is to sue them, as 16-year-old Winston Karam did in Ottawa.
Winston Karam is a 16-year-old Ottawa student who successfully sued his school division for neglecting to confront his bullies. (Ashley Burke, CBC)

Let's say you're a bullied teen who's done everything you can to stand up to the kids who are making your life a living hell — but school officials refuse to stop it.

What are you going to do to get the authorities' attention?

If you're 16-year-old Winston Karam, the answer is simple: Sue them.

Ottawa's Winston Karam and his mother, Vania Karam. (Courtesy Vania Karam)

That's what the Ottawa boy and his mom, Vania Karam, did a couple of years ago when he was repeatedly choked, pushed into lockers and called the N-word by two out-of-control classmates.

When the school principal and others refused their pleas for help, they called a lawyer.

Their move paid off in May when they won their case against the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board, not to mention $3,000. It set a legal precedent across Canada that could see other school officials being held accountable if they turn a blind eye to bullying.

The win came at a cost. Over the four-year legal process, Vania said she spent $55,000.

"Now, all schools have a duty of care to respond to complaints of bullying, to take action and protect students from harm that comes to them as a result of bullying," said Vania. 

"If they don't, they can be found negligent and financially liable."

Winston hasn't been bullied since, but he also hasn't gotten back the carefree laugh he used to have before his tormentors mocked it. "One of my goals was to change how I laugh," he said.

"I realize now you shouldn't have to do that."

"When I look back on it all I would say his laugh never really returned to normal," said Vania.

"I regret giving the school authorities any credibility at all. I think you should always believe your kids."