The Calgary Board of Education (CBE) spoke publicly for the first time on Monday, responding to news that a nine-year-old Syrian girl died by suicide in March.
Christopher Usih, the CBE’s chief superintendent, said repeatedly that he couldn’t speak to specifics to protect the family’s privacy. He also refused to say if Amal Alshteiwi’s death has prompted any change, but did speak to how the board is taking the matter “extremely seriously.”
“This loss is one that has been very troubling for us all,” Usih said. “The loss of a child is not something that we take lightly. It’s one that requires us to redouble our efforts to ensure that Amal and the tragedy that befell this young lady is one that we hope and pray never happens again.”
He explained that “processes are in place” to ensure students are learning in safe environments.
“There’s no place for bullying in any one of our schools,” he said.
Usih added that there are resources, including strategists, psychologists, and diversity and language support staff that work with families to bridge the gap with new Canadians.
Usih said the board is working with the school, family and community on this matter, insisting that the bullying protocol is working.
“Student safety is our top priority — absolute top priority,” he said. “The loss of one child in our district is too many.”
Amal’s parents said their daughter was bullied for months. The CBE has disputed this in past written statements to Global News, saying if parents are worried about a child, the first step is to reach out to a teacher.
Nasra Abdulrahman, Amal’s mom, said she tried that four times, but didn’t receive help.
“My daughter lost interest in life and she took her own life,” she said via a translator. “She could not continue.”
But the CBE commenting on it is exactly what Amal’s grieving family hopes for.
“I want school officials to admit what happened but, unfortunately, still they have not done that,” Abdulrahman said through a translator.
“My daughter is gone and I’m not going to have her back. My concern is my son and all the other kids in the school just to be safe.”
If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs help, resources are available. In case of an emergency, please call 911 for immediate help.
The Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention, Depression Hurts and Kids Help Phone 1-800-668-6868 all offer ways of getting help if you, or someone you know, may be suffering from mental health issues.
– With files from Global News’ Jayme Doll