Coroner's report on Nanaimo teen suicide highlights need to share bullying history
Oct 19 2012
The failure to communicate bullying problems from school to school will be considered when new anti-bullying policies are developed for the province.
Coroner Adele Lambert identified the gap in a report into the Jan. 12, 2010, bullying-related suicide of Nanaimo teen Ashkan Sultani.
The report was released this week, a week after the suicide of 15-year-old Amanda Todd of Coquitlam, who endured several years of bullying.
Ashkan, who had a learning disability, was 15 when he killed himself. He had been bullied while attending elementary school in Lantzville and two Nanaimo high schools. Like Amanda, he changed schools to make a fresh start, but the problem was reportedly not communicated to his new schools.
Ashkan was happy at Seaview Elementary between 2003 and 2008 - except when riding the school bus, where bullies teased him, pretended to trip him and kicked his backpack.
In 2008, he was diagnosed with a learning disability. He moved to Dover Bay Secondary. The bullying got worse at high school. Frustrated, he lashed out, punching a tormenter several times. He was suspended for three days.
The Sultanis arranged to have him transferred to Woodlands Secondary School.
At Woodlands, a student started to poke him in the ribs and tease him. In December 2009, Ashkan reported it to the principal, who told the student to stay away from Ashkan.
In January, a teacher told the Sultanis that Ashkan would receive a completion certificate, not a full Dogwood diploma.
"The family had not been aware of this previously and Ashkan was disappointed that he would not be graduating with his peers," Lambert wrote.
On Jan. 12, at 2 p.m., a family member came home to an empty and quiet house. Ashkan's body was found in the backyard, near the children's treehouse.
"It does not appear that it was shared that he was being bullied or what some of the previous issues had been" when Ashkan transferred schools, Lambert wrote in her report.
Ashkan's death also led to a policy review within the Nanaimo-Ladysmith school district, and the existing policy was rewritten.
At that time, there was no provincial policy on sharing information when students are transferred. That will now change.
"That's what the provincial policy review committee will be looking at and part and parcel of what the advisory committee will be looking at," said Scott Southerland, Education Ministry spokesman.
The review will include student transfers between schools and school districts, and information sharing with partner agencies, Southerland said.
A challenge will be sharing that information without violating privacy issues.
"What that young man needed was a community of care," said Brenda Morrison, a bullying expert at Simon Fraser University. "That's the information that needs to go from one institution to another: 'This is a vulnerable young man.' "