The sister of a 14-year-old boy who killed himself earlier this month made an emotional address to the Edmonton Catholic School District (ECSD) at its first public board hearing of the year on Tuesday.
Chloe Dizon presented the ECSD with a petition with more than 4,000 signatures, calling on the school board to address bullying at the school her brother Ethan attended, St. Thomas More Catholic Junior High School. She said another student at the school also died by suicide in the fall, a claim the ECSD later confirmed with Global News.
Dizon launched the online petition calling for an investigation into the school a day after her brother died. In the online post, she said while it’s not known what motivated her brother and the other student to take their own lives, she also attended the same school and “witnessed discrimination among the students.”
“I ask the Edmonton Catholic School District and the City of Edmonton to open an investigation into St. Thomas More Catholic Junior High, to not only expose the harsh bullying environment and the elitist attitude found in the Sports Academy but also the clear favouritism towards major student athletes and the Sports Academy,” Dizon’s post read. She also alleged the school has an issue with “rampant bullying, often unchecked by the school administration.”
After Dizon addressed the board, ECSD Supt. Joan Carr said an “extensive” internal investigation is already underway and that there “hasn’t been any indication that bullying played a role in Ethan’s death.”
“We have also talked with Ethan’s closest friends and they have no idea why he took his life,” Carr said. “In response to allegations in the petition of bullying, at the school, the school has personally phoned all 430 families that attend the school to see what supports they or their children may require and to identify any issues that students are experiencing which need to be addressed.
“Families responded that they appreciated the contact and felt St. Thomas More School is being misrepresented and are deeply troubled by the effect this is having on their children and the community they love.”
Following her presentation, Dizon told Global News the current investigation is not enough and she wants a third party to investigate the issue to prevent bias. She also said “she would like to see the academy students and the regular program students become integrated like they do in St. Francis Xavier to promote equality among students and prevent bias.”
Dizon added she believes more mental health awareness is needed, especially at junior high schools.
“(Junior high) students are more susceptible (to mental health problems) because of hormone changes – they’re trying to discover who they are, they’re more vulnerable to bullying.”
The ECSD did not say if it would commit to a third party investigation.
On Wednesday, the parents of the St. Thomas More student who died in the fall, issued a statement to say while they sympathized with the Dizon family’s loss, there was no connection with the death of their son and the death of Ethan Dizon.
You can read the family’s entire statement below. Global News has decided not to include the names of the parents.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the Dizon family during this difficult time. We understand the pain they must be going through, as we too are dealing with the tragic loss of our son. Unfortunately, a connection has been made in the media between these two deaths, and we respectfully ask that this stop. There is no connection between these two very tragic events, and by wrongly linking them together we have felt disrespected and misunderstood.
Our son’s experience at St. Thomas More Junior High was very positive. He enjoyed going to school every day in a healthy and safe school environment that supported both athletics and academics. He benefited greatly from being in a sports academy, and experienced growth and success in many areas because of it. We have greatly appreciated the support that St. Thomas More has shown us, both while our son was a student there, and after he passed away.
We would appreciate that the media not continue to link these two deaths in any future story, and please respect the privacy of our family as we mourn the loss of our son.