Pamela Lewis sits at the kitchen table of her Oshawa home with her younger daughter Harmony. They are practicing addition.
“Two hundred plus 200 is?” she asked eight-year-old Harmony, who replies promptly with “400.”
Harmony Murphy and her big sister Maya have been home from school since February. Their mother said they’ve been victims of relentless bullying at David Bouchard Public School.
“From pulling hair, slapping, being hit with sticks,” she said when asked about the extent of the bullying.
“A child spit in my daughter’s face. I went into the office (and) I said, ‘That’s assault, what are we doing about this?’ Nothing was done.”
It has been an agonizing struggle for Lewis, who acknowledged her daughters need to be in school to learn. But she said she is worries for their safety.
“My children want to kill themselves. When you have your eight- and nine-year-old daughters telling you they want to die because of the bullying,” Lewis said.
“They’re called fat, they’re called ugly. They have kids stealing their lunches, their shoes, their glasses — you name it. It’s horrible.”
Harmony has a cognitive disorder and suffers from anxiety. Maya has autism. Lewis noted the bullying, which has included “physical abuse,” has made life miserable for the children.
“Because they bully me every time I go there,” said Harmony softly.
“I say, ‘Could you please stop? That’s not nice.'”
Global News contacted the Durham District School Board (DDSB) after a number of parents began reaching out saying their children were being bullied at school and nothing was being done about it.
“Whenever allegations are brought forward, a proper full investigation occurs in order to determine next steps,” a DDSB spokesperson said in an email.
David Mastin, president of the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario Durham Local, said it’s an issue the union is aware of.
“We get a number of teachers saying to us that more needs to be done,” he said while also referencing reports by Global News.
“With the reports that you’re obviously reporting on we need to do a really hard navel gaze at how we can do better.”
Michael Barrett, a trustee with the Durham District School Board, said the board has put in place initiatives to address bullying.
“There have been numerous anti-bullying and well-being initiatives undertaken at this particular school involving staff, students, and parents, increased yard supervision and training, age specific in-class self-regulation programming for students, parent engagement on mindfulness and teaching students how to effectively deal with conflict,” he said.
Meanwhile, when Lewis took her daughters out of class, the school board contacted Children’s Aid Society. She said she received a letter in the mail.
“I contacted them and I explained exactly what was going on and they told me the Board needs to do their job. This is not a child-protecting matter, this is a board of education matter,” Lewis said.
She said she is searching for a new, safe school for Harmony and Maya.
It’s been difficult to find one that can accommodate their special needs.
“They need to be at school where they can learn with the proper supports. I’ve called the board of education to find another school. Nothing. No phone calls back,” Lewis said.
“My children can’t go to our home school because of the bullying situation but they won’t accommodate them to go to another school.”
Global News recently reported on seven-year-old Greyson Sigueira’s story of bullying. Siqueira attends the same Oshawa school and was injured following an altercation last week.
“It’s sad that it took a broken bone to get this out there,” Lewis said.